Wilson delivers a state title for Radnor

HERSHEY — The look on Jack Wilson’s face didn’t betray his emotions Saturday.

Wilson gazed at the Radnor faithful that flocked to Hersheypark Stadium, gold medal around his neck, replaying the journey taken over the preceding two hours.

He thought of how his Raiders had let a three-goal, second-half lead slip away, how they watched with trepidation as St. Joseph’s Prep took four cracks at a game-winner, two in the final possession of regulation, two to start the overtime period. Wilson may have traveled back to his attempt as the buzzer neared that was denied by Prep goalie Michael Marchese.

But he also had overriding vision in his head: Streaking down the right side of the goal, receiving a pass from Drew Ryan, catching, firing, floating, scoring.

It’s no surprise that emotions, much less words, were difficult to qualify.

“I’m still in shock,’ said Wilson of his overtime game-winner in Radnor’s 11-10 win for the program’s first state title. “Words can’t describe what I’m feeling right now.’

The dog pile that ensued in the far corner of the field, Wilson flinging his stick in the air as his teammates and the Radnor fans poured out of the stands to mob him, was far easier to describe. Wilson’s winner with 44 seconds left in the first overtime period — after the Prep had monopolized the extra frame’s first three minutes with a sustained possession that yielded two shots turned aside by Alex Andersen — was so stunning that it left the Raiders (20-6) skipping right over relief directly to jubilation.

The earlier emotion, as the Prep (19-7) clawed back into the game to tie it with 2:10 left courtesy of Stephen Tobia, was easier to illustrate. You know, just not by Wilson.

“I wasn’t so concerned,’ Wilson said. “I believe in our defense. I believed in Alex. I was just holding my breath hoping we got the ball back.’

A counterpoint?

“There’s definitely some worry, especially me,’ Ryan admitted. “I was scared to death. But I think we just needed to get in our offense, control it, really keep the ball to ourselves, have a long possession and score.’

The angst was justified, with the pendulum of momentum swinging firmly (and, potentially, decisively) in the Prep’s favor.

Radnor’s name looked engraved on the trophy when Ryan scored twice in 11 seconds early in the second half, part of a 3-0 run that broke a 5-5 halftime tie. When Peter Gayhardt pegged a goal back, Clayton Proctor had an answer 15 ticks into the fourth quarter. And when Griffin Fleming’s first of two fourth-quarter goals inched Prep to within one at 9-8, Mike Thompson offered a quick riposte.

But Fleming and Tobia scored late in the fourth quarter, and with Daniel Fisher (16-for-25) getting the better of Tom Meyers at the X, Prep had a chance to seize the momentum and the lead.

The Radnor defense, which conceded a double-figure goal total for the first time in 13 games, had other ideas, stiffening when it could’ve wilted.

“We honestly just say stick to the game plan, play as a unit and do our thing,’ said Hal Marshall, who added an assist on one of Ryan’s four tallies. “It’s worked for us all through the season, and it worked for us again today. … We didn’t play our best defense at times today, but I think we stepped up when it mattered. We really bought into that concept of playing as a team at the end and got that W.’

After some nervous moments — a blocked shot from Andrew Watts, a shot from Fleming that Andersen coaxed off the post, a pair of quality saves on Fleming and Gayhardt in the overtime session in which the linemen made his frame as imposing as possible — the Radnor defense held firm.

That just left Wilson. And for as enigmatic as his reaction afterward, no one would doubt what would result with the ball in his hands, in full flight toward the cage.

“We’ve been practicing that for a good amount this year, and it’s just execution,’ he said. “We ran it right, and the ball ended up in the back of the net. … I’m pretty confident. I’ve just got to hope the shot goes in.’

Let’s let Ryan assist him on the description, too.

“Amazing,’ the Penn State-bound senior said. “It’s one of the best goals I’ve seen all year, not because how it went in, but the timing and just the composure in such a hard spot is amazing.’

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