NETHER PROVIDENCE >> A year ago Tuesday, Nate Perrins wasn’t enjoying his day much.
On Sept. 12, 2016, Perrins went under the knife to repair a torn ACL and meniscus in his left knee, an injury sustained on the second day of Strath Haven soccer preseason and an absence directly correlated with the Panthers enduring a rare playoff-free season.
“It’s been a long year,” Perrins said. “… But here I am today.”
The only remnant Perrins seemed to carry was a bulky brace on his left leg that didn’t hamper the striker’s usefulness with that peg.
Perrins scored a hat trick and forced Marple Newtown into its first of two own goals in a 9-1 Central League walloping.
Perrins tallied in the 29th, 47th and 49th minutes, the latter two providing a quick ripostes to Chad Lairdieson’s 46th-minute tally that cut the Marple deficit to 3-1 and threatened to close the gap.
But Perrins had no intention of seeing that happen. And to underscore how far his leg has strengthened in 365 days, he tallied with his weaker left foot; he reckons between club and high school action since returning to full health in June, he’d only scored once with his left before Tuesday.
“I think it is special,” Perrins said. “Obviously I’ll take it with either foot, but if it’s the left, it’s a little more special.”
Perrins’ road back was arduous. After daily visits to the physical therapist over the winter, he was cleared to return to action in May. His first game came in late June with Lower Merion Soccer Club.
“Having Nate back is a blessing,” senior defender Josh Mason said. “Glad he’s healthy. He’s putting in work. He’s got a lot of goals this season already so I’m happy for him, and it’s helping this team a lot.”
Perrins’ explosiveness feeds into the Panthers’ recent outbursts. They’ve scored 20 goals in the last three games, consecutive pastings of Marple, Interboro and Ridley. Perrins has seven markers, owing largely to chemistry in the 3-4-3 formation coach Ryan O’Neill employs. Wingers Emmet Young and Gavin Birch also scored Tuesday, before reserves Luke Mutz and Reid Rothman topped off the goal tally.
“I’ve been playing with all them for a while,” Perrins said. “We’ve bonded together very well.”
Noah Atsaves a save on a free kick, then the second goal is offside. pic.twitter.com/ZXlH8m5NME
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) September 12, 2017
Pressure from Perrins got the Panthers on the board in the fourth minute, the forward’s run occupying a defender and forcing a loose touch that eluded goalkeeper Kyle Kennedy. Birch doubled the lead in the 15th, set up by Young’s run on the opposite wing before squaring a ball that Vincey Palermo thumped off a defender for Birch to put away the rebound.
Jake Zweier sprang Perrins down the right win in the 29th, the forward latching onto a through ball and cutting back to his left to finish. Jon Kadoch did the honors for Perrins in the 47th with a line-splitting ball down the left flank (just seconds after Perrins missed an identical chance), then the forward capped his hat trick with a mirror-image goal on the right wing where he cut back, spun a pair of defenders and tucked a left-footed shot just inside the far post.
Lairdieson’s goal was arguably the prettiest of the 10, the winger taking two touches of a Luke Ciavaradelli cross-field ball from midfield and volleying a high-arching ball over onrushing goalkeeper Noah Atsaves perfectly over the goal line.
Atsaves, though, stopped the other two shots to come his way in the first half, while Brett Burns handled three second-half shots flawlessly as the defense, marshalled by Mason, controlled the threat posed by physical center forward Eamon Clinton.
“I like it back there,” said Mason, who has played as a winger the last two years. “I feel like we can control the field a little more with me back there. It’s a little more work but it’s what we need now.”
Young scored in the 55th minute, collecting a rebound of his corner-kick delivery to skin a pair of defenders. Rothman’s wayward shot in the 67th caromed at near a right angle off a defender, but he earned a clean goal in the final two minutes thanks to a Nicholas Palermo cross before Mutz finished the scoring by pouncing on a turnover with 45 seconds left.
By that time, Perrins had taken a seat on the bench next to O’Neill and undertaken the laborious process of unfastening the network of Velcro keeping his brace in place, all with a smile on his face that illustrated the difference a year makes.
“Our offense has been clicking,” Perrins said. “You couldn’t ask for any more.”
Also in the Central League:
Garnet Valley 3, Haverford 1 >> Andrew Weir and Mark Kuhn scored within four minutes in the second half to seal a win for the Jags in a battle of 2016 playoff qualifiers. Nate Ominsky also tallied for the Jags.
Marc Mays scored for Haverford.
Radnor 4, Ridley 0 >> Evan Majercak, Phil Gilbert, Ryan Peter and Toma Iaramboykov scored for the Raiders, who led 3-0 at half and rolled.
Ridley goalies Michael Sheridan (five saves) and Zack Ritz (13) were kept busy.
Lower Merion 1, Upper Darby 0 >> Ransuon Ravenelli made seven saves in goal for the Royals, but a 74th-minute penalty kick by the Aces made the difference.
In the Catholic League:
Bonner & Prendergast 1, Conwell-Egan 0 >> Kaito Kitazawa scored the game-winner in double-overtime, and Tony Harper made seven saves in goal for the Friars.
In the Del Val League:
Academy Park 2, Penn Wood 0 >> Lansana Doumbouya scored in the first half and set up Tahjay Swaby’s goal after the break, and Amadou Fofana stopped 12 shots for the Knights. Tasha Swaby added an assist for AP (2-4, 1-0).
In nonleague action:
Episcopal Academy 3, Shipley 1 >> Spencer Higgins tallied a brace and assisted on Sam Wilson’s opener as the Churchmen (6-0) extended their winning streak. Gab Furey added a helper.