PHILADELPHIA >> Archbishop Wood senior goalkeeper Connor Ford likes when his team gives him an early lead just like it did Tuesday night.
“It really helps our mindset because once we score, if me and the defense do our jobs, then there’s no way they can win,” he said.
The Vikings made senior midfielder Kody Taylor’s goal with 37 minutes, 35 seconds left in the first half stand up in their 1-0 PIAA Class 3A first-round victory against Lower Dauphin at the South Philly Supersite. Wood faces Holy Ghost Prep, which shut out Saucon Valley, 3-0, in the state quarterfinals Saturday.
Lower Dauphin lost just its fourth game of the season, but two of its losses came in back-to-back games. After losing the District 3 final to Hershey and falling to Wood Tuesday, the two-time defending state champion Falcons’ season is over.
Taylor continued a trend of helping Wood get out to fast starts. He scored twice in the first half of Wood’s 5-0 District 12 title win against Franklin Towne Charter last Saturday. Taylor made a well-timed run and received a pass from his fellow captain and senior Bob Hennessey to score the game’s lone goal on Tuesday.
“I get concerned, sometimes, it’s too early, and then there’s a mental letdown,” Vikings coach Hugh Kelly said. “This is a very, very skilled and talented team. Historically, they’ve done very well in states, they do very well in their own league. They’re a great hotbed for talented soccer players, so we knew we were in for a long night. Getting one early helps, but by no means did I really think that it was going to end 1-0.”
The Falcons scored four or more goals nine times during their season. Wood joined Hershey and Chambersburg as the only teams to hold them scoreless in a game in 2018.
With its season in risk of ending, Lower Dauphin played more aggressively on the attack in the waning minutes as it tried to get the tying goal. With 8:56 remaining, senior forward Josiah Ramirez set junior forward Ryan Sanson up for a shot, but Sanson missed the net.
Earlier in the half, Ramirez intercepted a pass near the 18-yard box and opted to pass to a teammate instead of shoot, and that opportunity also missed the net. Wood also defended two key corner kicks in the last 12 minutes. The Vikings made sure to challenge crosses and mark the middle of the field when the Falcons attacked from the wings, Ford said.
After losing three straight games to Roman Catholic, North Penn and Father Judge by a combined margin of 7-1, Wood has won six consecutive matches heading into its matchup against Holy Ghost Prep.