FRANCONIA – Pottsgrove senior center back Jon Maher was forecasting a storm.
Yet through the scoreless first 40 minutes of Tuesday night’s District 1-AA boys soccer semifinal against Lower Moreland there was no snow fall in sight.
The second-half forecast didn’t change from the senior center back. It simply took a bit of coaxing from junior teammate Noah Lear to make his prognosis come true.
“I think we all knew it was going to be an avalanche once we got that first goal. And it was,’ Maher said. “Once Noah got that first goal we all knew we were going to win the game. We didn’t let up — it’s not like we scored and sat back. We kept on them and didn’t let them get anything on us.’
Lear netted his first and quickly added a second before Rammy Abbas struck for another to give the Falcons three goals in a seven-minute span in the second half as Pottsgrove cruised to a 3-0 win over Lower Moreland to advance to the District 1-AA final at Souderton High School.
Pottsgrove meets No. 1 seed Holy Ghost Prep — a 1-0 winner over Springfield-Montco in the earlier semifinal — in the Class AA final back at Souderton on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. It’s a rematch of the 2012 final, which the Firebirds won 4-0.
Lear served as the catalyst for the Falcons (14-6) by running on to a cross-field back pass from a Lower Moreland defender and hitting it past on-rushing goalkeeper Mike Gould on the edge of the penalty area in the 44th minute. Lear scored his second from a Scott Exley throw-in chested down by David Macartney into Lear’s path in the 47th minute.
“Once we got the one, we had the game from there,’ Lear said. “Through the whole season we’ve been a second half team. If we get through the first half with the lead or tied we feel like we can have the game.’
Abbas left little doubt in the 51st minute when he bent a left-footed shot into the top left corner of goal for the 3-0 advantage, eventually erasing the bad memories of losing 2-1 to the Lions in last year’s semifinals.
Pleasing to the Falcons’ top defender Maher was his unit, which also features Jared Mayes, Exley and Kyle Reed and goalkeeper Liam Abdalla, did not concede an early goal like they had on far too many occasions throughout the regular season.
“Time and time again we’ve let up goals 10 minutes into the game. That’s the one thing, we made sure to not let up a goal early,’ Maher said. “We outhustled them and moved the ball around.’
The Falcons fell victim to that in their last outing, 14 days ago in a 3-1 defeat to Boyertown in the Pioneer Athletic Conference semifinals. But in the two weeks between games Pottsgrove turned its attention to trying to win its first District 1 title since 2008 when the team upset Holy Ghost Prep in the final and reached the PIAA championship game.
“We had hard practices to get in shape and get our mindset after losing the PAC-10s and turning that mindset into winning districts,’ Maher said.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought game. We’ve had a great season and I think we’re going to be able to pull it out.’
It is the deepest Pottsgrove team since the ’08 season, filled with seniors and complementary underclassmen and new additions like Tuesday’s hero.
“I haven’t been there (in the district final) yet,’ Lear said. “I’m a junior and this is my first year on varsity. If I can play like that and the rest of the team can play like that we’ll have a good chance to win it.’
Pottsgrove put nine shots on net in a dominant second half and led overall 12-2. Abdalla registered two saves while Gould had eight saves. … Pottsgrove hit the crossbar twice, once from Maher on a free kick and again by Abbas in the final minute. … The game turned dirty for a stretch after Pottsgrove took a three-goal lead, leading to a number of yellow cards. Pottsgrove coach Jay Witkowski received a red card for dissent while lobbying for protection of his players. … Falcons starting right-side midfielder Sean O’Brien suffered a shoulder injury in the first half and did not return.