LOWER GWYNEDD — Stuart Malcolm chose not to look when Tuesday night’s PIAA District One Class AAA soccer match between his Wissahickon High Trojans and West Chester Henderson slipped into penalty kicks.
The refusal of the Trojans head coach to peek was understandable.
In each of the last two seasons, Wissahickon was ushered out of the postseason in the sport’s most nervewracking section of overtime.
It’s a shame because Malcolm missed a whale of a finish.
With both Wissahickon and Henderson going through the first round of kicks knotted at 2, Devon Memis confidently put the Trojans up with the first kick of the second round.
Moments later, bedlam ensued when Trojans goaltender John Carrozza stopped Warrior Travis Wilson.
The third time was truly the charm for Wissahickon, which came away with the victory and a berth in the playoff semifinals, where the Trojans will meet Great Valley.
“When I was in tenth grade we went out in penalty kicks,’ said Memis, after escaping the mammoth pile-up of players and fans that formed near the net used for the PKs. “When I was in 11th grade, we went out in penalty kicks.
“But every day, after practice, we shoot penalties, so I was as confident as I could be. I picked my spot and put it in.’
As for Carrozza, he was equally certain he’d come up with the game-winning stop.
“We practice it every day,’ he said. “I was confident in myself.
“We went after this one with heart and passion, all of us did.’
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the game being decided by penalty kicks was that it was in overtime at all.
The Trojans got a goal from Tom McHale in the match’s fifth minute and another in the 13th minute of the second half from Cole Kropnick, and appeared to be en route to an easy win over a Warriors team that had put together very little in the way of attack.
But that all changed when Aiden McFadden headed a rebound past Carrozza in the half’s final 15 minutes.
Henderson played like a different team the rest of the way.
And when Richie Schlentz slipped one past Carrozza in the 32nd minute, it was even, and the Warriors were flying.
“The momentum definitely swung at 2-1,’ said Henderson head coach Sean Ryan. “We started hitting some of the patterns we were looking to hit.
“And the opportunities were there for a third (goal).’
Indeed, in the final minute of regulation, McFadden grazed the crossbar, bringing groans from the Warriors faithful that had come to support the visitors.
By that time, the Trojans were playing without Kropnick, who had cramped up in the second half, and were soon to be without Ryan Becker, who cramped up soon thereafter.