|September 8, 2015||3:30 pm||Central League||2015|
TREDYFFRIN >>Needing a drink of water on a hot late-summer day, Evan Gibbs received that request from his Conestoga teammates.
The Conestoga senior got the water he deserved, but not just a cup to catch his breath. Instead, he got the entire Gatorade bucket dumped on him in celebration.
That bucket was the only object that could cool Gibbs off on the pitch Tuesday afternoon
Gibbs scored the game-winning goal in the 85th minute to lead Conestoga to a 2-1 overtime victory over West Chester Henderson in a nonleague game at Teamer Field.
To say Gibbs earned every ounce of that water is an understatement. He carried the Pioneers (2-0) on his back, scoring both goals in leading his team to a huge early-season win over one of the top teams in the Ches-Mont League.
“That’s one of the best teams in the state right there,” Gibbs said. “It means a ton to us and is just a big confidence boost to this team. This win tells us we have potential this year.”
Gibbs scored the winner on a cross from Rodrigo Martinez. The cross looked deceiving as Martinez fooled the Henderson defenders into thinking the pass was heading to teammate Chris Donovan.
Instead, the ball went to Gibbs, who arrived from midfield and put the ball past Henderson goalie Brady McSwain for the winner that sent the Pioneers into celebration.
The play was similar to Gibbs’s first goal of the afternoon, which put the Pioneers up 1-0 in the 27th minute and gave Conestoga the halftime lead.
“Roddie (Martinez) played the ball right across the back,” Gibbs said. “My goal was to just stay wide and come into the play. In the process, I was able to lose the back defender. We just executed it to perfection.”
Conestoga dominated possession in the second half to maintain its one goal lead, but Henderson’s Frank DeRosa sought the opportunity for the equalizer.
Fresh off a short rest, DeRosa reentered the game and faked two defenders out in the left back to create some separation. Travis Wilson received DeRosa’s pass and put the ball past Conestoga goalie Will Smith for the equalizer in the 67th minute to make it 1-1.
In what had the makings of a late-October showdown during the first week of the season, two of District 1 Class AAA’s top teams did not disappoint during the final 10 minutes of play.
In the 71st minute, Richie Schlentz beat Smith in a 1-on-1 but hit the post to keep the game tied 1-1. A minute later, Conestoga used the fast break that resulted in Blaise Milanek blasting a shot at McSwain.
The freshman goalie made the save, but poked the ball out to Jack Davis, who hit the crossbar with a wide-open net in front of him.
Once overtime hit, Conestoga dominated possession in the period which led to Gibbs’s game winner.
The Warriors (1-2) have played one of the district’s toughest schedules to open the season with Malvern Prep, Perkiomen Valley and Conestoga to open the season. Even in the scorching heat, they were still able to find a way to match up with Conestoga, one of the favorites to win the Central League title.
“We have some potential this year, but replacing a lot of senior leaders to graduation in James Wood, Ellis Vague and Vince Feola,” said Henderson head coach Sean Ryan. “It’s good for us to see guys stepping into those roles. To come on the road against one of the top teams in the area and take them to overtime is big for us.
“Obviously we’re disappointed that we lost, but there were a lot of positives to take away from today’s effort.”
If Gibbs keeps playing at the level he’s at against the top teams, Martinez and Conestoga will have more reasons to dump huge buckets of water on him as the season progresses.
“We’re going to build of this,” Martinez said. “This was one of the best teams we’re going to play this year and it’s huge to get a win. This game definitely had a playoff feel to it.”