DOWNINGTOWN – In the final moments of regulation, Council Rock North threw everything it had at District 3 champion Hempfield and still, could not get a ball to go into the back of the net.
It would come back to haunt the Suburban One National League (SONL) champion Indians in a PIAA Class AAAA Quarterfinal battle Saturday afternoon (Nov. 11) at Downingtown West’s DiSerifino Stadium.
With 7:54 remaining in the first overtime period, the Black Knights converted on a set piece for the game’s only goal, as junior Drew Johnson headed a free kick by senior Christian Benedict into the right side of the net for a 1-0 Hempfield triumph.
For the Rock, it ends its 2017 campaign at 16-8-1 and extends the Knights’ season into the state semifinals against District 7 runner-up Peters Township, a 3-1 winner against D7 champ North Allegheny. Either Peters Township or Hempfield will play the winner of CB West/Conestoga in the state championship set for Nov. 17 at Hersheypark Stadium.
Moments before the winning strike by Johnson, Knights defender Zach Wilson took down CR North senior Justin Scharf in the Knights’ end of the field. Instead of possession being turned over to the Indians, however, a whistle sent the ball back the other way.
When CR North senior Conor O’Donnell collided with Johnson near the 30 yard line, a free kick was awarded Hempfield. Benedict booted the free ball and Johnson put it where his team needed it to advance and the rest is history, as they say.
“I thought it was more of a foul down our end but, it is what it is,” said Scharf, who battled a hip injury in order to get back out onto the field full-time in the state quarterfinal. “We didn’t defend the set piece properly and we got punished for it.
“We didn’t bring our A-game today.
“We started to pick it up at the end of the second half – the last 15 or 10 minutes – but it wasn’t enough.”
“We played a team that’s hard – a defensive team that’s hard to score against – and we didn’t put them away.”
With six minutes remaining in regulation, CR North sophomore Vinnie Colon got off a dangerous shot from the top of the box as he was going down. Knights junior goalkeeper Tristan Green proved equal on the play, however.
From there, the field was tilted toward the Hempfield goal.
With 4:30 left in the second half, Scharf sent a ball into the 6-yard box, looking for Colon. Vinnie couldn’t get his head on the ball but was able to push it back to O’Donnell. But alas, Conor’s shot was wide of the goalmouth.
Scharf sent another ball across the crease with three minutes left and that time, a referee’s whistle sent it back in the other direction. Justin’s next crossing pass found Colon streaking in on the right side, though the ensuing header by Vinnie was gobbled up by Green.
The Indians’ best chance to score came with 20 seconds left, though that time the shot by CR North senior Jon Pugh went sailing over the net.
“Our plan was to attack from the left side of the field us three (Scharf, Colon & O’Donnell) and Ryan Pave tried to hook up. We did successfully a few times but it wasn’t enough.”
Pugh would get another shot at the ball in the extra session, booting a free kick from 45 yards out. Again, Green proved equal and the state playoff battle remained scoreless.
“We came out really hot and played amazing,” said Scharf. “But when you let a team hang in the game, it gives them steam and lets them pick it up.”
Still, the Indians’ 2017 campaign was an impressive run by the Rock. As the regular season wound down, North lost power points for a pair of midseason wins it posted over SONL rival Harry S Truman. The games were negated when it was discovered the Tigers came to the pitch with an ineligible player.
The same scenario negated points that Pennsbury gained in a September win over Truman. That said, needing a victory in its final regular season matchup with the Falcons, CR North did just that, blanking Pennsbury 2-0 Oct. 16 at Walt Snyder Stadium to make districts.
In District 1-4A action, the Indians got a pair of game-winning goals from junior Sean Finneyfrock in 1-0 triumphs over 14th-seeded Upper Dublin and 11th-seeded Wissahickon. Coming two minutes into an overtime period with the Trojans, Sean’s goal at Wissahickon sent the Rock to states.
In the D1 Semifinals, after battling seventh-seeded CB West to a scoreless tie through regulation and overtime, the Indians came out on top, 3-2 in penalty kicks Nov. 1 in enemy territory.
In PKs, Pugh, sophomore Jeremy Smithline and sophomore Zach Saifer tallied for CR North while the Rock’s senior netminder Eddie Mancinelli made saves on the first, second and last attempts by the Bucks.
PIAA Class AAAA Quarterfinals
Hempfield 1, Council Rock North 0 (OT)
(Nov. 11 at Downingtown West)
CR NORTH (16-8-1) 0 0 0 – 0
HEMPFIELD (21-4) 0 0 1 – 1
First-Half Goals: CRN – none; H – none.
Second- Half Goals: CRN – none; H – none.
Overtime Goals: CRN – none; H – Drew Johnson, from Daniel Hester, 88th minute.