CB East edges North Penn on Vare’s PK

TOWAMENCIN >> North Penn and Central Bucks East’s boys soccer teams are shockingly similar.

Both sides are rigid defensively, tenacious in the midfield, potent in attack and just tactically sound. Neither side will beat itself, meaning it will take something special to get a result against them.

When the Patriots met the Knights Tuesday afternoon at North Penn, it inevitably led to a high-level high school game. It turned out East had two things going for it as it emerged a 1-0 victor.

It takes something special to beat North Penn. Austin Prime and Evan Vare fit that bill.

“I though both teams played very well, it was pretty much a defensive battle,” North Penn coach Paul Duddy said. “Each team had a few good chances. East always defends very well.”

Vare’s second half penalty kick was the difference in an otherwise even game. The Patriots (13-0-0, 9-0-0 SOL Continental) figured to be boosted by the return of Prime, their senior goalkeeper who was injured a few weeks back against CB West. But just hours before the game, they took a big blow when midfield engine J.R. Eisold broke his nose in gym class, leaving the team no time to prepare for his absence.

Fortunately for the Patriots, Prime showed no ill effects from two broken orbital bones and a cut around his left eye. Playing in a plastic mask, the keeper was monumental in keeping the Knights (7-2-2, 5-2-2 SOL) from finding the back of the net.

“It’s taking a little bit to get used to,” Prime said. “It throws off your depth perception a little bit. It was my goal to come back for this game. When I went to the doctor they told me one to two weeks, so that was my goal, get back for this game.”

Prime was tested early by North Penn’s Musa Sheriff and the keeper was up to task, parrying the shot out for a corner kick. In a game featuring two sound teams, it meant there would only be so many chances and every shot on goal could be a game-changer.

Both back lines played strong games as did the keepers behind them. North Penn keeper Jordan Katz made four saves, his first stuffing a laser of a free kick off the foot of Vare.

The Knights had a another strong chance in the first half after hard-working midfielder Mike Kohler was able to get endline and skip a ball across the mouth of the goal. Scott Kohler came sliding in at the far post, but he was a beat too late and wasn’t able to get all of the ball, letting it roll harmlessly away.

North Penn generated a fair amount of chances, but didn’t have the finishing touch on Tuesday.

“We just needed the nose to see it coming and anticipate,” Duddy said. “We needed to anticipate that coming in and get on top of it and get a good chance out of it.”

Eisold’s absence was noticeable at points in the first half, most notably when it came to winning first and second balls. Balls in the air or 50/50 chances the Patriots would normally come up with weren’t being won and the forwards weren’t as connected with the back end of the formation.

Vare said in the second half his team started getting the outside players more involved and playing into channels, helping the offense get moving. As a result, the Patriots had more opportunities than they did in the first 40 minutes, with wing Edgar Mauge finding a role on the right flank.

Katz had a terrific save on a snap-shot by Vare about midway through the second half as he continued to match Prime. The East keeper showed why his team was waiting for his return a few minutes later.

A sequence of terrific interplay between North Penn left back Nick DiCerbo and midfielder Liam Parker led to a great ball into the box by DiCerbo. Colin Jerome latched onto the ball, passed up a potential shot and took a touch in. Prime struck on the touch, coming hard off his line to cover up Jerome’s shot and stonewall the Knights’ best chance.

“North Penn’s never not going to give you a game,” Prime said. “In this league with it being so close and us the only team that’s beaten them so far, we knew we would get a game from them and we did.”

The miss by North Penn turned into a momentum shift as CB East was able to get out into a transition buildup while the Knights scrambled to recover. It wasn’t an out-and-out break, but it was enough to get Vare the ball where he could work back into the box.

As he was going away from goal, the senior forward was clipped by a defender right at the paint, leaving the call in the official’s hands. The signal went to the penalty spot.

“The PK looked legit to me,” Duddy said. “It was just inside the 18. You give him a chance…

“He’s a smart player in a lot of ways, more than just scoring goals. He finds his way, manages the field well. He goes to empty spaces and when he gets the ball, he’s kind of magic when he gets it.”

Vare stepped up to take it, approaching to his right but going back to the left, beating Katz, who had guessed right.

“I’ll take that,” Vare said. “We just have the will to win and when we go up, we know we can hold a lead. Our defenders played great along with our outside mids and center mids. We were able to get the ball and clear it out.”

Indeed, East fended off a couple of late surges by North Penn. The loss didn’t take any luster off the performances by a number of Knights, including wing Nick Terchek, back Matt Richardson and holding mid Eric Rosenblatt.

While Vare had the winning goal, he knew right away what the real difference in the game was.

“Austin Prime,” the dynamic forward said.

East and North Penn entered the game as the No. 2 and 3 teams respectively in the latest District 1-AAA power rankings.

“We just need to continue playing well and getting those couple goals a game or one goal a game, whatever we need,” Duddy said. “We certainly defend well enough we just need to find the back of the net some, which is probably every coach’s lament.”

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