Hoover answers the call, leads Abington past William Tennent

ABINGTON >> Abington was reeling.

Not only had William Tennent’s Lorenzo Amaro scored a go-ahead goal early in the second half, but the Galloping Ghosts’ standout keeper, Sam Wells, was down and in pain. In a game both teams needed in the pursuit of a District 1-AAA playoff bid, it was a crucial moment for the Ghosts.

After a generous donation from Wells, up rose senior Brian Hoover. His job was simple, take the reigns at a position he hadn’t played in years and help his team earn a Suburban One League National Conference win.

Like the landmark he shares a last name with, Hoover was quite frankly a dam in net, posting eight saves as Abington rallied to defeat Tennent 2-1 Thursday night.

“I played two years ago as a 10th-grader and (coach Randy Garber) told me to get ready,” Hoover said. “I just did the best that I could and it ended up working out well for us.”

The first half was slow, with a few shots and a lot more fouls and the teams went to break scoreless. The second half was a different story.

Wells, an all-conference caliber goalkeeper, was able to make an initial save in the box, taking a blow to the ribs in the process. The senior was crumpled on the grass as the ball went to the post where Amaro, standing practically on the line, tapped it in with 35:52 left to go.

After Wells came off the field, after gamely trying to gut it out, JV backup Jimmy Touey went in and came up with two big saves while Hoover warmed up. Because Hoover hasn’t played keeper for Abington (10-4-0, 8-4-0 conference) in two years, he doesn’t bring the equipment to games, so he had to borrow Wells’ green jersey and gloves while he had a few balls tossed his way.

Finally, it was time to go in.

“I know that our team tends to give up a lot of free kicks at the end of games,” Hoover said. “I was ready to be aggressive and get those free balls in the air I knew I could get, because I’m pretty big.”

Hoover said it was an uncomfortable feeling for the entire team when he came in, but he told his teammates he was there for them and they would just have to do the best they could. The senior, who moved to a defender/midfield role with Abington, gave tons of credit to his back line, especially back Aiden Coyle and senior midfielder Jason Gales.

Hoover made one save before teammate Juan Castillo was able to ease his nerves a bit. After a ball came out of the box, Castillo cracked it back in to tie the game up with 20:45 left to go.

“That was a big relief off my shoulders,” Hoover said. “I was thinking if I give up a goal, the game’s over if we go down 2-0. Then Juan just ties it up and I felt a huge, huge relief.”

Remember, this was coming from a guy who hadn’t touched a ball in a goalkeeping capacity all year.

“He has not trained with goalkeepers once this year, not once,” Garber said. “He’s a goalkeeper by trade as a youth player but he’s a right back this year. He went in extremely, extremely cold but he has the experience and knowledge of being a goalkeeper, he just hasn’t touched the ball. It was deciding between a cold Brian or putting a young kid in and we went with Brian.”

The decision paid off as Hoover was just what Abington needed. He was tough and aggressive, especially on the balls in the air and he made five saves in the final six minutes of play, all with Abington ahead by just a goal.

The winning margin came on the foot of Jacob Katro, who collectedly drilled a penalty kick with 18:16 left after a Ghost player was fouled inside the box.

“We were a little bit in shambles but a great goal by Juan got us back on track,” Garber said.

Hoover said it didn’t take him long to settle in between the woodwork. Once he stuffed his first shot, the senior said the old sensations of goalkeeping came back to him and he got more comfortable.

The victory was Abington’s third this week, with one more game to go Friday at Harriton. All of a sudden, the Ghosts find themselves right in the thick of a playoff hunt, with an impressive win over Central Bucks South on Monday standing out.

Hoover said with each game, this group is showing more and more resiliency, though it may be hard to top

Thursday’s serving, and he’s reminded of another Ghost team from his time at the school. This year’s team is led by its seniors and Hoover said it has him thinking of the 2012 team that won the district title.

“I don’t know if we understood the magnitude of that South win when we actually won it,” Hoover said. “I think it’s starting to come into focus how good of a team we are. I don’t think we knew how highly respected they were before the game but now we all realize that helped us out a lot.”

Hoover said he’s ready to step in the net again if needed and just wants to do whatever he can to help the team. Even if Wells is a quick healer, Hoover has already done plenty to aid the Ghosts.

“It’s a senior-oriented group, a good group, it’s their last chance and they want to win,” Garber said. “They’re making the effort. The heart and desire is there. We have to keep it rolling.”

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