TOWAMENCIN >> The ball fell right where Colin Burn wanted it to.
A flicked on header caught a retreating North Penn defender and keeper in a moment of hesitation, allowing the ball to bounce in front of the Central Bucks West senior. That was the window Burn needed Thursday, racing into the free space and flicking home a golden goal overtime winner.
Burn’s goal felled the Knights 4-3 in the first overtime as CB West handed North Penn its first defeat of the season in a game that was nothing but stirring theater.
“I was just hoping they’d let it go, I hoped I would get there and I just did,” Burn said. “We put Bailey (Moyer) up top so we got more attacking-minded and our intensity increased because we were flat in the first half.”
About a month ago, the sides met at CB West with North Penn coming out a 4-2 winner in a thrilling comeback that saw the Knights net four goals after being down 2-0 at the half.
Thursday followed a similar plot, with different actors. The Knights (14-1-0, 9-1-0 SOL Continental) all but out-and-out dominated the first half, playing their brand of high-tempo, on the ground soccer.
Josh Jones helped the Knights open the well first when the big sophomore got above the crowd and headed home Ryan Stewart’s corner kick not even five minutes into the game. North Penn continued to ping the ball around, creating chances and flustering the Bucks before Stewart assisted another goal.
The junior won a ball in the midfield, then played an exquisite through ball into the channel right into the path of Mike Chaffee. Chaffee then capped the chance with a superb finish, hitting a low shot that bent itself away from standout West keeper Dylan Smith.
“They played a great second half, so they deserve a lot of credit for that,” Knights coach Paul Duddy said. “They took the game away from us and did what they wanted to do. We did some things that were uncharacteristic but they forced it.”
At the break, the Bucks (12-2-0, 9-1-0) gathered as coach Stefan Szygiel laid into them after a lackluster first 40 minutes.
“They’re so talented and they have so many weapons but we were able to generate enough pressure and with moving another guy up top and pressing a little higher up the field, we created more chances and moved the ball,” Szygiel said. “We positioned the second half to them as ‘what if this was two weeks from now and what if it was an elimination game?’ It’s lose and go home and that’s what this game has become because (North Penn) is the type of team you have to go through.”
The other guy top was Moyer, West’s standout junior who is technically a defender but ends up playing midfield and forward in most of the Bucks’ matches. He sparked West right off the second half tap, going into a dead sprint to run down a long service from Jack Galt and tucking it inside the near post for a goal just 35 seconds into the half.
Szygiel described the junior as a “hybrid” and Moyer was relentless throughout the second half as the Bucks wrested control of the match.
“We had nothing to lose, threw ourselves forward and just grinded,” Moyer said. “We pounded the balls forward until we could finish. We just wanted to keep the ball, their best players are up top so we wanted to keep the ball away from our goal. Everything we got, we one-touched up the field.”
Carter Houlihan restored North Penn’s two-goal lead with an incredible bit of marauding play forward. Having dropped into the back, the junior chested down a West ball, then took off with purpose up the left touchline.
Houlihan dropped the ball to Jared Huzar and kept going, rounding a defender to get the ball back from Huzar, then ripping a shot past Smith off the far post and in with 25:42 left in regulation.
“Apparently neither of us can defend each other,” Szygiel said. “Paul and I have been coaching against each other for six years and we’ve never seen games like this between the two teams where it’s juts goals after goals.
“Dylan doesn’t give up that many goals. We’ve let up like nine goals all season and seven of them are to this team, which is also a testament to how darn talented they are.”
The Bucks caught the Knights out of shape with 20:42 left when Galt chanced a shot off the left flank after being given a ball from Moyer that found its way over the top and into the back of the net, again pulling West within a goal. From there, the Bucks really started to impose their will.
All through the second half, Szygiel kept yelling “seconds” from his bench, imploring his guys to the vitality of winning every second-chance ball. The best way to keep a slick-moving team like North Penn from moving is to keep the ball off the ground and there were an abundance of headers in the second frame.
“We need to learn to stay positive and stick together,” Duddy said. “It’s worked all year and this was one game. There was no guarantee we were going to go through the league or season undefeated, that’s for sure. (West) played well.”
The Bucks knotted the game 3-3 when Jimi Leder served in a corner kick finished by Moyer on a play that nearly mirrored Jones’ opening goal for the Knights. North Penn had a couple chances late, but Smith was able to make a great save on Knights striker Luke McMahon and another on Aiden Jerome to send the game to extra time.
“We definitely felt like the momentum was all on our side,” Burn said. “We thought we should have won in regular time, but we knew we’d come out with the same intensity.”
Burn struck with 4:51 left in the first overtime, prompting the Bucks’ bench to rush the field in celebration. Splitting the season series with the Knights was no small accomplishment.
“This shows we can hang with anyone,” Moyer said. “If people see two losses and look down on that, they shouldn’t because we’re not a team to be looked down on.”
“It begs the question of maybe we should play that way all the time, that’d be interesting,” Szygiel said. “It’s the way we play and anyone who watches us knows we’re not afraid to get into a physical battle, we’re not afraid if you score on us because we know how to lose, how to come back and how to do everything in between. This is where the value of this senior class comes in, this is the time of year where we need to see it and this is a step in the right direction.”
NORTH PENN 2 1 0 – 3
CB WEST 0 3 1 – 4
Goals: CBW – Bailey Moyer (Jack Galt), Jack Galt (Moyer), Moyer (Jimi Leder), Colin Burn; NP – Josh Jones (Ryan Stewart), Mike Chaffee (Stewart), Carter Houlihan (Jared Huzar).