HORSHAM >> After spending Sunday getting over a loss, the Abington boys’ soccer team spent Monday getting back to work.
Tuesday, the Ghosts got back to what had made them one of the top teams in District I as they started their PIAA Class 4A state playoff run against Emmaus. A furious start and a Sean Touey-led crusher of a finish, a familiar refrain, proved effective again.
Abington topped Emmaus 4-0 at Hatboro-Horsham, extending their special season at least a few more days.
“That was pretty much the whole thing, we talked about pressuring their defense early,” Abington midfielder Nevin Baer said. “We knew they wanted to go side to side and not as direct, so we tried to pressure and steal it in their half so we had easier chances.”
Emmaus, the District 11 runner-up, brought a quality and slightly banged-up side down to Hatboro-Horsham but the Hornets had no answers for Abington’s early onslaught. Reese Gibbs put an early shot over the bar, Touey pushed an effort wide and Gavin O’Neil rang the crossbar all in the first 10 minutes.
Then, the Ghosts (21-2-0) got a corner kick and Baer stepped over the ball. The junior hit it about as well as possible, leading to a cluster at the near post that ended with the ball over the goal line.
“We practice hitting the near post, so I hit it there, it bent a little more and went in,” Baer said. “It looked crowded from my angle but I think the goalie hit it in.”
“I ran in from the back post and Nevin like he does so often, hit a perfect ball curling in,” Touey said. “I didn’t get a piece of it but I shielded the goalie and I think the ball crossed the line before the goalie could grab onto it. Our movement in the middle disrupted it, Nevin’s ball was perfect right on the goal line and the goalie kind of fell into the net.”
However it happened, the ball went in and Abington had gotten back to its trend of scoring the first goal. A minute and a half later, the Ghosts drew another corner and got another goal, this one coming when a Hornets defender mis-hit Liam Friel’s effort into the net for an own goal.
It was a great start, but the Ghosts didn’t keep that ruthless streak going and let Emmaus find its way back into the game. A very technically skilled side, the Hornets had two golden opportunities to score goals and somehow, sent both over the crossbar.
“The first 15 minutes was good and I told them at halftime, the next 15 minutes they kind of took off,” Abington coach Randy Garber said. “They kind of relaxed and let Emmaus have too much space, and they’re capable of knocking passes around and creating some problems.”
Abington survived the half, then set about re-applying its pressure in the second 40 minutes. The Ghosts’ defense renewed its efforts, led by another terrific outing from fullback Nate Rose, Gibbs and Vince Carosella.
Rose, a senior, was a constant aggressor on the defensive end as he and the other defenders got right up on any Hornets attacker who got into the final third. The outside back said getting the early lead was critical as it gave the defenders the feeling they had more time to press and make decisions.
“This team likes going back and forth a lot so if we kept high pressure, they wouldn’t be able to get much going,” Rose said. “We’ve always been taught to play aggressive because teams don’t like playing under pressure. They tend to give the ball up right away.”
Emmaus still found its moments but Abington had restored some modicum of stability in the game and it felt like there was only time separating the Ghosts from their next goal. Touey had a couple terrific looks go wide but if one thing has proven true this season, misses only embolden the senior forward.
With 8:49 left, Touey finally broke through with an exquisite goal. Baer played the ball from the middle out to Friel on the left flank and the senior midfielder whipped a perfect cross to the far post where Touey one-timed it in.
“The first couple of chances, I missed by maybe a foot and I knew it had to come eventually,” Touey said. “I saw that ball go in the air and I realized it was going to dip over the defender’s head. It’s a ball that Liam has played so often, a perfect dropping ball in the middle. I swung my left foot and I don’t know if I’ve ever struck a ball that well before but as soon as it left my foot I knew.”
Touey made it 4-0 with 4:03 left when he thumped home a header off a Friel corner kick, his 29th goal of the season. Shawn McConnell also sparked Abington with good minutes off the bench in each half.
It was a result a long time coming for this group, especially its senior class and they gave the line of student supporters along the sideline fence plenty to rally behind.
“We have a lot of leaders on the field and everyone works hard the whole game,” Baer said. “We slowed down a little, but at halftime we decided to get back to playing hard and finished with a win. We just had to have more energy and work for each other.”
Abington will head out west for Saturday’s second round when the Ghosts meet District 7 champion Seneca Valley.
“We have been playing together all season,” Rose said. “It takes chemistry and sometimes that takes time to come together, but we work for each other, we haven’t let up a lot of goals and it’s proven it’s paid off.”
ABINGTON 2 2 – 4
EMMAUS 0 0 – 0
Goals: A – Nevin Baer, Sean Touey (2); E – own goal.