North Penn’s 2nd-half barrage knocks out Souderton

FRANCONIA — North Penn center back Drew McMenamin stood over the ball as a five-man wall of Souderton defenders converged 10 yards in front of him.

McMenamin surveyed the landscape and delivered a hard and accurate kick to the ball, which skimmed across the wet turf, around the wall and just inside the goalpost. Not too shabby for a central defender.

A strong second half carried North Penn to a 3-0 win in boys’ soccer at Souderton Monday afternoon. For the hosts, it was a win they needed to have, as they entered the day ranked 32nd in the District 1 Class AAA, with the top 28 teams making playoffs.

“It was unfortunate for us to concede a goal so early in the second half,’ Souderton coach Matt Benner said. “Not that it took the boys off of what we were doing but it definitely gave a shock to their system.’

The win was North Penn’s first shutout in its last eight, an accomplishment due largely to McMenamin and goalkeeper Jordan Katz.

“You just have to communicate,’ Katz said. “I give all the credit to this guy (McMenamin), he set up the defense, very, very well.’

Over the first 40 minutes, neither team could claim an edge over the other. Souderton winger Tylor Strozeski was his team’s catalyst early, showing a strong work rate on the right flank and generating a couple of chances.

North Penn held a narrow edge in shots, three to two, at the break, but the Knights’ best chance never got recorded as one. With 4:24 left in the half, a breakdown by Souderton’s back line gave Lucas Seipt an open net, but he mistimed his strike, saving Souderton a deficit.

“It’s alaways a big game when we play Souderton,’ North Penn coach Paul Duddy said. “Everybody knows each other. It’s always a good win to come here and get one. It was a huge game for (Souderton) because if they had beat us they probably had a chance of getting into districts.’

The Knights struck quick to open the second half, when Mike Kohler slipped through the Indians’ back line and struck the ball past Souderton keeper Paul Steingraber just 1:57 into the half.

Instead of letting the goal totally demoralize them, the Indians came back galvanized and started chasing an equalizer. About four minutes after the goal, Michael Barr played in a ball to John O’Keefe, who had Katz beat, but O’Keefe clanged his effort off the post.

“Had we have finished a couple of those chances in the second half, made it 1-1, we’re right back in that game,’ Benner said. “That momentum, playing on our home field with a lot to gain really would have carried us forward.’

Souderton kept up the pressure, putting a shot over the crossbar 40 seconds after O’Keefe’s miss. Then, 10 minutes after conceding a goal, the Indians had another golden chance to get it back.

Dylan Molyneaux won a tackle deep in the midfield and sent the ball back up the field, starting a buildup that saw O’Keefe, David McDonough and Stroeski take touches. Stroeski got the ball wide and sent a cross in that met McDonough charging in, but the forward pushed his shot a few painful inches wide.

“Our seniors know full-well the predicament that we’re in right now and that we need to try and get wins and stake our claim to a spot in districts,’ Benner said. “They really wanted to come out and have a good last game at home.’

North Penn doubled its lead with 16:52 left in the game when it was awarded a direct free kick just outside the Souderton box. McMenamin sent the shot along the slick turf and just inside the far post to essentially put the game away.

“The ground’s wet so that helps when you hit it low, it skips,’ McMenamin said. “The goalie was cheating behind the wall, so the far post was open. I just hit it there.’

Souderton came back with a late charge, but McMenamin and Katz had their defense organized and composed. Katz made four saves, two coming in the final 14:23 and did well playing a slick ball in the air.

“It builds a lot of confidence for us, especially coming to district time,’ Katz said. “It’s a great win.’

North Penn got its third goal on a miscue by Souderton. Matthew Ammendola had his shot saved by Steingraber, but the Souderton goalkeeper couldn’t control the rebound and in an attempt to clear it off the line, one of his backs fired the ball into the net for an own goal.

McMenamin said putting numbers behind the ball after getting the lead was the key to containing Souderton’s offense, which attacked from every direction. While the first half wasn’t up to the team’s standards, the Knights still left with a shutout and an effort that matched a desperate opponent.

“The quick start to the second half was really nice,’ McMenamin said. “We were able to start firing right away and get them on their heels after a poor first half that we had played.’

Souderton has one game left, Wednesday at CB East, so there’s still a sliver of hope for the Indians to sneak into the district field.

“It’s something that’s bit us before, that finishing and that last ball being able to find the back of the net,’ Benner said. “We’ve had consistent play getting the ball into spaces but it seems like we score three or four or we don’t score any at all.

“If we can beat CB East, maybe the computers will jump us up, who knows.’

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