Bachman nets 2, Abington outlasts CR North in key SOL National battle

ABINGTON >> In a game heightened by the circumstances around it, Abington’s boys soccer team met the challenge head on.

With control of the Suburban One National race in their corner, plus holding the No. 4 spot in the latest District 1 Class AAA power rankings, it was imperative that the Galloping Ghosts win when they took on Council Rock North at Memorial Field. A win is exactly what the Ghosts got thanks to the return of Sam Wells in net and a pair of goals by senior striker Matt Bachman.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Abington's Matt Bachman races Council Rock North Noah Ehlin for the ball Oct. 19, 2015.
Abington’s Matt Bachman races Council Rock North Noah Ehlin for the ball during their game on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

The victory temporarily put Abington four points up on Pennsbury, who entered the day tied with Rock North for second behind the Ghosts. The Falcons had a night game Monday and both teams have one game left, Abington at Harry S. Truman and Pennsbury at William Tennent, on Wednesday night.

“The first half, we came ready right off the bat,” Bachman said. “We knew if we could get past today, our odds would be increased by a ton so we had to play with a high level of intensity, get that ball in and then we would be good.”

Abington came in fresh off a 4-0 week that saw them vault up the power rankings and into position to earn a first-round bye. A few days off would be beneficial to the banged-up squad, none more so than the man in net.

After taking a hit to his right side last Thursday, Wells missed the second half of that game and all of Friday’s game at Harriton before returning Monday. The Ghosts needed the all-league keeper, who made five saves and helped Abington hold off a late charge by CR North.

“He made a couple of great saves, point blank ones,” North coach Joe Stackhouse said. “We flubbed a few but he’s got a good stature about him. He’s a big kid and he dominates that line.”

Abington took the game to North from the opening kick with the Ghost midfield energizing the team’s effort. Holding mid Josh Gales was a force in the air and ground, winning tackles and clogging up the middle for CR North’s attack.

Meanhwhile, Kevin Weintraub, David Pohle and Connor Gallagher made the runs and passes that sent Bachman and forward Juan Castillo in on net. With the sun shining in Rock North’s eyes in the first half, a ball from a midfield player set up the game’s first score.

Gales sent a looping ball into the box where Bachman waited, having made a quick read on the situation.

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Abington's Juan Castillo and David Pohle battle Council Rock North's Jon Pugh Oct. 19, 2015.
Abington’s Juan Castillo and David Pohle battle Council Rock North’s Jon Pugh during their game on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

“I took a look at the goalkeeper and he was a little out of position there,” Bachman said. “With that ball coming in, I knew he was going to have trouble with the sun so I just had to put it high up in the air and try to get it over him.”

Bachman, his back to the goal, headed the ball up where CR North’s keeper was able to make a play on it, palming the ball off the crossbar and straight up. It came down on the same path, hit off the turf and caromed up and into the net 18 minutes in.

“Our league is so competitive that any team can beat anyone on any given night,” Abington coach Randy Garber said. “Today we scored a goal with the sun but we could play them again tomorrow and they could beat us.”

It felt like a game that needed more than a goal and that’s just what happened in the second half. Abington again carried pressure to start the period, though CR North had more life in its effort as desperation started to creep in.

The game was a typical conference game, tough and physical, but both defenses knew how to use that correctly. After Abington had been denied on a few chances, Castillo slipped a ball through to Bachman, who deftly bodied off a defender to slot home his second goal in the 62nd minute.

“They know the rules of the game, played it shoulder to shoulder,” Bachman said. “It was a great pass by Juan. You just have to stay physical.”

Bob Raines--Montgomery Media Abington's Juan Castillo drives the ball up field during a home game against Council Rock North Oct. 19, 2015.
Abington’s Juan Castillo drives the ball up field during a home game against Council Rock North on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015. (Bob Raines/Montgomery Media)

Rock North’s intensity bumped up quite a bit after the second goal and it pulled a goal back when Jared Schraf was able to best Wells in the middle of a scrum inside the box after Brett Miller sent an excellent ball in off a free kick. With seven minutes left, the pressure was on Abington’s defense to hold out.

Abington did hold, with Wells’ presence and the continued steady play of defender Aiden Coyle leading the charge. Stackhouse said his team needed to play with that late intensity for the entire game and not just that last charge, something it will need to fix for districts.

With the win, the Ghosts are at the cusp of grabbing their first conference title since 1996, per Garber’s best guess. The roster contains 16 seniors, so this is a veteran group that knows it can’t look past Truman, especially with how unpredictable the league has been so far.

Still, that hasn’t quelled the growing excitement surrounding the program.

“It’s a great feeling,” Bachman said. “It’s been 20 years since we last won the conference so we’re all pumped to be here and be in this situation.

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