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North Penn surges in second half, tops CB West on road

DOYLESTOWN >> While there was an entire half still to play Monday night, the outcome of the match would depend on a 10-minute stretch.

Luke McMahon had an early shot in the second half, that while saved by Central Bucks West’s Dylan Smith, sent the message that North Penn wasn’t going away yet. After a poor first half, the Knights won that opening 10 minutes, then won the half which won them the match.

A resurgent second half let the Knights pick up a 4-2 win over the Bucks at War Memorial Field in a playoff-quality Suburban One League Continental Conference match.

“Coming out of halftime we were pretty amped up, we finished our talk a few minutes early and we wanted to pressure them from the start and put them under,” McMahon said. “I thought it was important to get a shot off, whether it was inside the box or outside where it ended up coming from and I think setting the tone early in the second half pinned them back and allowed us to pressure up the field.”

The Bucks were terrific in the first half while North Penn was anything but. After an initial flurry of energy, the Knights found themselves on the defensive most of the half, with CB West running at them and winning almost every ball there was to be had.

North Penn (6-0-0, 3-0-0 conference) was giving away second balls and just not challenging on others, while their services just couldn’t find a mark.

CB West (5-2-0, 3-1-0) on the other hand, kept creating dangerous opportunities and finally cashed in on one when Carson Snyder was able to head home a ball bouncing around the box following a Bailey Moyer free kick. Knights keeper Brett Schwengels kept it a one-goal game when he pushed a free kick by Reed Sturza over the bar, but the Bucks were clearly knocking.

“We played so well in the first half, the first goal was a little bit of a broken play but still a nice finish and our second goal was just a great finish,” Bucks coach Stefan Szygiel said. “But you look at the writing on the wall there. Even toward the end of the first half, they had a few chances and Dylan had to make two or three legitimate saves. It’s tough to be in that spot because they basically have free rein to throw numbers forward.”

The Bucks did take a 2-0 lead with 1:38 left in the first half on a brilliant strike by Colin Hurt from outside the box. Three minutes prior, West missed a penalty kick after Moyer had stepped up to take it but got called back by the bench. Szygiel placed the blame on himself for not communicating the plan once the PK was awarded but also didn’t think it changed much in the long run because his team still had a two-goal lead at the break.

Instead, he looked at that first 10-minute spell of the second half. After McMahon’s initial shot, the Bucks had the run of play, getting two corners and a shot on goal by Jimi Leder, who put in a lot of work up top all match.

“The first 10 minutes of the second half decided the game, it either goes 3-0 West or 2-1 North Penn and that’s the gamble,” Szygiel said. “We had chances to make it three and didn’t. From there, they gained confidence and you have to give them credit. They have so much skill, they have size and that’s the best team we’ve seen all year.”

Knights coach Paul Duddy gave the Bucks plenty of credit himself for the way they dominated his side over the first 40 minutes. The veteran North Penn coach then deflected credit for the win to his players and assistant coach Chris DePeppe, who Duddy said made constant adjustments in the flow of the game during the second half.

From the initial outset of the second half, the Knights were throwing nine or 10 men up on every set piece or corner kick. One of those corners led to the breakthrough when the Knights kept possession and McMahon slipped a ball to Aidan Jerome in the box for a finish with 29:50 to go.

“Getting the first goal was huge, it got us back in the game and the belief took over,” Duddy said.

North Penn needed to be first to the ball and win it in the second half, so the Knights turned to a couple guys who didn’t play in the first half. Alieu Sheriff started the second half and added a presence while Brett Katz came in after the first goal and helped keep possession and distribute.

The Knights drew a foul around midfield and again threw everyone up, including towering sophomore center back Josh Jones. Jamie Snyder put all his leg into the service, putting it right on the money in the box as Jones skied above Smith’s outstretched hands and headed home the equalizer with 27 minutes left.

“Alieu and Sheriff in the middle solidified things for us, they won a lot of balls and did a lot of good things,” Jones said. “Jamie played a great ball in. I’ve been waiting for that goal all year long, I knew it was coming soon so I just tried to get my head on it and keep it on frame. Dylan came out, so I knew I had an opening if I could put it over him.”

McMahon put North Penn up 3-2 when he buried a penalty kick with 11:09 left in the game.

“I think it shows the heart we have on this team,” McMahon said. “To be down 2-0 at West, they’re a great program that’s only on the rise and this field is tough to win on, it shows we have great resilience and we’re not going to give up. We could be down 3-0, 4-0 and this group of guys wouldn’t give up.”

Ethan Torri added the fourth goal for the Knights with 1:51 left to seal up the win.

CB West, which advanced to the state semifinals last season, has the ability on the field. Right now, it’s taking moments like the second half on Monday and responding.

“Our learning moments are between the ears, it’s not soccer correlated, it’s how we react to certain situations and if we want to be men about it and show maturity or react in a negative manner, which I think we did tonight,” Szygiel said. “They have to learn they haven’t earned anything. There’s this vibe from last year they’re trying to ride and I disagree with it because it’s a new season and all I know is we’re 5-2 after seven games. You have to get to the end and you’re going to take some punches along the way.”

Duddy had a similar response when talking about the long-term impact of the game. As nice as the second half was, the first half was well below standard and there are plenty of teams in the SOL Continental that can beat anyone else in the conference.

“I think we’re as good as anybody but I don’t know we’re better than anybody,” Duddy said. “It’s typical of the Continental Conference, any game, anybody can win. We play CB South on Thursday and they could step up and beat us.”

NORTH PENN 0 4 – 4
CB WEST 2 0 – 2
Goals: CBW – Carson Snyder, Colin Burn; NP – Aidan Jerome (Luke McMahon), Josh Jones (Jamie Snyder), Luke McMahon (PK), Ethan Torri. Saves: NP – Brett Schwengels 5; CBW – Dylan Smith 7.

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