Plumstead Christian reaches District 1-A final with PK win over Faith Christian

NEWTOWN — It was a game neither team deserved to lose.

Like a pair of heavyweights, Faith Christian and Plumstead Christian slugged it out, each taking the other’s best shots. But only one could advance and in the end it was top-seeded Plumstead, 5-4 on penalty kicks after an intense 1-1 double overtime draw at Council Rock North.

Senior Andrew Johnson was the game’s hero, saving a goal in the second overtime as a center back, then making two saves in the shootout to secure the win.

Plumstead’s first shot on frame was a gem. A corner by Alex Hartzel found the heads of center back Andrew Johnson and a Faith defender, sending it back out into the field.

It fell right to Noah Klinger who had all kinds of space and time. Klinger calmly settled the ball then ripped a hard volley inside the left post with 23:15 left in the first half.

The goal got Plumstead rolling as they came at Faith hard for the next five minutes. Justin Brautigan fired a free kick off the right wing that forced Caleb Loew into a save.

The rebound got knocked around but Luke Brautigan was able to squeeze an effort that was blocked out for a corner.

Again the corner came to Plumstead where Chase Peterson put a shot in only to be deterred by the extended leg of a Faith defender.

Johnson played like a man possessed in the first half, covering a ton of space from center back. He also took a few of Plumstead’s dangerous long throws and put a header just wide with about seven minutes before break.

But Faith kept coming, and the pressure paid off. Making Plumstead’s defenders dribble and have to make a quick play on the ball, Faith forced a turnover that led to a shot from Alejandra Diez.

Diez’s first effort was blocked, but the ball came right back to him and the midfielder took a reactionary shot that climbed into the air and dipped back behind the keeper and under the bar to level the game 1-1 with 4:19 left in the first half.

Faith forward Cole Adams was a workhorse on the pitch, using his speed to beguile the Plumstead back line. Midfield maestro Kazuya Hirano orchestrated numerous balls that led to chances for Faith.

Adams continued to buzz the Plumstead back line to begin the second half, getting a half-chance inside first seven minutes.

Justin Brautigan nearly put Plumstead ahead when he ran a give-and-go with James Garrity. Brautigan went far post but pushed his effort wide.

Hartzel had a soft shot saved a few moments later. Garrity had a breakaway but it fizzled when he waited for support.

Adams had an effort parried deftly by Artie Micheel. Frustrated his work hadn’t yielded a goal, Adams vented it quickly on the post before realizing he had won a corner.

The teams kept going right after each other, with a handful of near-misses and saved shots. Faith got a big lift from bruising forward Mike Pearson, who supplied a number of smart through passes to his fellow attackers.

Faith had an excellent chance to win in the final 30 seconds.

Eddie DiPietro cranked a high curler that Micheel somehow managed to get a palm to, but he could only deflect it. Johnny Hasson was right on it, ripping a close range shot that called Micheel into a game-saving double save.

The first overtime played exactly as the first 80 minutes, with both teams playing to a draw. Each team had one shot on net, but neither threatened the locked-in keepers.

Micheel again saved his team in the second OT. Adams had slithered past the line and ripped a shot that somehow Micheel contorted to block.

Johnson had his keeper’s back, with a superhuman effort to block a follow-up shot by Diez. The danger wasn’t over, but Eddie DiPietro put a third Faith shot wide trying to beat the scrambling defense.

Pearson and Adams connected on a slick through ball that got Adams a shot, but Micheel snuffed it out.

The penalty shootout was like the game, with the teams going back and forth. Luke Brautigan clanged his try off the right post, but Johnson covered the final shot of the first rotation to save his team again.

Johnson also saved the next shot and then Klinger stepped up and delivered again, sending his team on to the district final.

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