LaRoche’s goal, Doney’s gloves push Hatboro-Horsham past CR South

HORSHAM — A “striker’s mentality” is a must for any successful goal-scorer in soccer.

Simply put, it means every shot is destined for the back of the net and if a shot doesn’t go in, then the next one is.

Strikers are the guys coaches and teammates want taking shots, so the quicker they can get over a miss, the better.

On a blazing hot Tuesday afternoon, Hatboro-Horsham’s Joe LaRoche missed plenty of shots, but he also hit the one that counted.

“It came from my teammates cheering me on, fans cheering me on and the fact I missed like 20 opportunities,” LaRoche said. “I just wanted more. The guys kept cheering me on and keeping me confident.”

LaRoche’s 21st minute strike held up thanks to the firm gloves of goalkeeper Stephen Doney and the back line as the Hatters outlasted Council Rock South, 1-0. It’s the second straight 1-0 win for Hatboro-Horsham, which is already halfway to its win total from a year ago.

While the scoreline depicts a clean sheet, it wasn’t a flawless victory for Hatboro-Horsham. The Hatters were pressed for long stretches in both halves, the attack got a little predictable and the defense was called upon a bit too much in the last legs of the game. But, Hatboro-Horsham left the field with a win.

“Any time you can get a shutout it’s a positive and obviously our finishing needs a little bit of work but it’s good for our back four and our goalkeeper,” Hatters coach Kyle McGrath said. “Stephen played a bit last year but going into the year we weren’t sure who was going to be the starter and he kind of emerged. Last game he made a great point-blank save and today, that’s two or three that he made that kept us in the game.”

The Hatters figured out pretty quickly they could play balls in over the top of the Golden Hawks’ back line because LaRoche was faster than anyone CR South had in the back. LaRoche, a junior who got playing time by the end of last season, forced CR South keeper Nate Zajdowicz into a double-save early in the game.

LaRoche couldn’t quite find the right touch for the first half of the opening frame, but his back end kept the game scoreless. Doney made two saves and his defense had his back, blocking a shot on the line to save a goal.

“We’ve got a good group of guys back there,” Doney said. “They’re strong-minded and they kept their heads the whole game, even when it got a little crazy at the end. I have to give it up to them.

“When they would get open, our defense did a good job to shut them down so they didn’t have those easy shots from the top of the box.”

While Doney’s handiwork held the lead, it was his boot that helped set up the solitary score. His long punt sprung LaRoche into a footrace with a CR South center back.

LaRoche won the race and didn’t waste this chance.

“I had the confidence to take them on and I just had to keep trying to push them and beat them,” LaRoche said. “I missed a few at the beginning but that gave me the energy to keep going and keep running harder and faster.

“I was going to check to (the ball) and I was initially supposed to flick it on, but he flicked me on and I just ran down the field and put it in down to the side.”

While the Hatters had the lead at the half, CR South certainly had the better of the play. The Hawks’ Dylan Schwartz was all over the field, using his small but powerful frame to dance the ball through Hatboro-Horsham’s formation.

After the break, the Hatters did a much better job of containing Schwartz, thanks mostly to the industrious midfield pair of freshman Colin Bateman and junior Chandler Ryan. Schwartz had just one shot in the second half, a try from outside the box that Doney easily covered for a save.

Ryan and Bateman each nearly helped double the lead, only to be denied by the crossbar. Ryan played a gorgeous ball to LaRoche less than a minute into the second half, which the striker hit off the woodwork and straight down, the official ruling it never crossed the line. With about 19 minutes left in the game, Bateman took a crack from distance, only to have his effort clang off the bar as well.

“We don’t always want to just rely on the long ball,” McGrath said. “We have confidence in our outside players that they can get forward as well. They’re young but skillful so we look to get the ball wide and forward as opposed to just straight forward.”

McGrath said he was proud of his team handled the late CR South pressure and noted the seniors on the back line in Alex Hoffman, Sean Rich and Alex Griffenburg for their late work.

“It boosts my confidence,” Doney said. “Going out as a starting varsity keeper with two wins and two shutouts, it feels good. I got to play a few games when our other guy got hurt last year, so I’m used to it now.”

The Hatters will try to carry their hot start into their first Suburban One League Continental game, a home contest against Souderton on Wednesday.

“We have a lot more chemistry this season,” LaRoche said. “We’ve all been playing with each other since we were freshmen and a lot of us were on JV our first year and built up into varsity. We play club together, we talk where last year we didn’t talk as much and relied on a few key players. We don’t have key players, we have good chemistry which makes us a good team and that can allow us to succeed.”

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