BUCKTOWN >> It was, by no means, about to put the game on cruise control.
Still, Owen J. Roberts was solidly focused on the idea of getting its Pioneer Athletic Conference playoff game with Phoenixville off to a fast start. The Wildcats did just that, riding an early goal surge to a 5-2 victory over the Phantoms in their Final Four semifinal Tuesday at Wildcat Stadium.
Three first-half goals from the offense, and shutdown play on the defensive side, proved the difference for Owen J. On the strength of their early lead, the ‘Cats built a five-goal advantage little more than 10 minutes into the second half … a cushion big enough to prompt OJR head coach Eric Wentzel to substitute freely off his bench.
“When it (score) was 5-0, that worried me,” Wentzel admitted. “I wanted our kids to keep their foot on the gas.”
Phoenixville, the PAC’s second seed from the Frontier Division, averted a shutout by scoring in a 12-1/2 minute span of the second half. But the Phantoms’ second goal, at the 12:13 mark, ended up being the end of the game’s scoring for both teams.
For Roberts, though, the post-season is far from over. The Liberty Division top seed (15-4) will be out to defend its 2014 PAC-10 playoff title Thursday against Boyertown, a 3-0 winner over Pottsgrove in Tuesday’s other Final Four semi.
“I was happy to get everyone in tonight,” Wentzel said, “and we’ll be happy to defend our championship against Boyertown.”
Graham Pugh, with a goal and assist, headed a balanced OJR offensive that saw five different players score while three others contributed a combined four assists. Pugh got the surge going with 21:42 left in the first half, taking a pass from Taurean Lee (two assists) off Doug Sbei’s corner kick and completing a shot off the crossbar.
“When you break the ice as a team,” Pugh, who had two goals and one assist against Phoenixville when the teams met in the regular season, said. “that starts getting things on the scoresheet. That was a great ball by Lee.”
Andrew Siana followed Pugh’s lead little more than 10 minutes later, taking the ball on a break and juking Phantom goalkeeper Mitchell Coll before connecting at the 10:30 mark. Six minutes later, Devin Murray completed another break toward the visitors’ cage by getting just enough momentum on the ball to have it cross the goal
line behind a sprawled Coll.
Quin Poley was credited with the assist on Murray’s tally. The Roberts defense, in the meantime, thwarted Phoenixville’s four shots and corners in the half,
“It was a good way to start,” defender Austin Koury said. “You score early, and the other team can get disappointed.”
Owen J. resumed its scoring flow at the 33:27 mark of the second half, Bruce Dowlin converting a straight-on shot. And with 29:46 to go, Brandon Ott added an unassisted tally to give OJR its insurmountable lead.
“We did that the first time,” Wentzel said of the teams’ regular-season meeting, which Owen J. took by a 5-0 count, “and that deflated them. We had great looks early. I was pleased with the kids’ effort.”
Phoenixville (9-10) averted the shutout at the 21:39 mark of the half, Andre Souza hitting a shot Owen J’s starting goalkeeper, Steven Brady, bobbled and was unable to control. With 12:13 to go, Phil Meszaros got the Phantoms another point by finishing off a break to the Roberts cage.
During that span, Wentzel brought in several players off the bench around the 15:57 mark. The substitutions included goal, with Brady (eight saves) giving way to Tyler Stonebraker, who finished out the game with three saves of his own.
“It was great to get the other guys in,” Pugh said.
As was the case in 2014, the Final Four championship game will again pair the Liberty Division’s two seeds. The last time around, Roberts edged the Bears 2-1.
The boys’ title game will be the first of a boys/girls doubleheader at Wildcat Stadium. The boys will go at 5 p.m., the girls at 7 p.m.
“We know they’re physical and hungry,” Pugh said of Boyertown. “They’ll be looking to get revenge for last year.”
Owen J. finished with respective 18-13 and 5-4 leads in shots on goal and corners. In goalkeeper saves, Coll had 13 to the combined 11 for Brady and Stonebraker … Roberts came into the postseason ranked third in District 1’s Class AAAA.