Pennsbury ends William Tennent’s season

WARMINSTER >> Officially, the District 1 playoffs don’t start until next week.

Unofficially, there was a playoff game at William Tennent Wednesday night. The Panthers came into the game needing a win over Pennsbury to get themselves into the Class AAA brackets next week.

It was a big ask of Tennent and though the Panthers were game, they were undone by the Falcons, 5-1.

“Some nights you have it, some nights you don’t,” Tennent coach Ryan Todt said. “We were missing our leader from the last two years tonight. He might have fractured his ankle in overtime against Bensalem so missing Connor Weiss was a big part of it.”

Todt said Weiss was a big part of the reason why the Panthers upset the Falcons on the road earlier in the season. That win actually played a role in Wednesday’s outcome.

Even with the stakes, the Panthers were on the defensive to start the game. After surrendering a throw-in deep in their own defensive end, trouble struck for Tennent.

A long throw off the side bounced around the box and a mishit clearance all but teed it up for Colin Marks. The striker finished from closer range just 3:30 into the contest.

“I spent the first part of the season telling these guys the amount of pressure you have to apply,” Pennsbury coach Tom Stoddart said. “It wasn’t until Tennent came and did it to us on our field that I said watch this because this is what we need to do.”

Tennent’s offensive strategy was straightforward. The Panthers were going to pressure the ball and keep it up by routinely substituting guys up top on 10 to 20 minute shifts.

It was a direct approach but it also meant they would have to break down Pennsbury’s stout back line. The defenders were able to cut out Tennent early but the Panthers’ lines of forwards started to wear down the Falcons toward the end of the first half.

Forward Billy Hanratty looked potent late in the half, having a shot blocked in the box and putting another strike a little wide.

Tennent retreated into the half down a goal and got an impassioned speech from its coaches. The Panthers returned with 40 minutes left to extend their season.

“I give our guys a lot of credit for playing hard,” Todt said. “We had a lot of opportunities that we didn’t finish. We had some quality opportunities we didn’t produce and put the ball in the back of the net.”

The first time the teams met, it was Tennent’s pressure that left a mark on Pennsbury. That game was a bit of a rallying moment for the Falcons and it was that lesson that helped them break the game open.

“Ever since then, we’ve increased our pressure,” Stoddart said. “I have to give credit to Ryan and them because they came and did it to us and that was a bit of an awakening for us.”

Forward Zach LoBasso blocked a clearance kick, won the ball then beat the onrushing keeper 15 seconds into the half to make it 2-0. John Griffin followed it six minutes later with a run down the left, cutback on the endline and quality finish.

LoBasso added another with 30:14 left after a play that saw a fair amount of contact go uncalled in the box.

“You need to be playing well at the end of the season and we’re starting to hit our stride a little bit,” Stoddart said.

Pennsbury also got another tremendous effort from its back line and goalkeeper, Anthony Rosso. Anchored by the central defender pair of Tyler Williams and Justin Chapuis, the Falcons were able to deal with Tennent’s waves of pressure.

“They’ve been fantastic all year and they’re just top-notch players,” Stoddart said.

Tennent had understandably pressed numbers up after the second Falcons goal, so the back line and midfield was more exposed. It was necessary however since the Falcons had yet to score more than two goals in a game, per Todt, so they would need their best offensive outing of the year to get to the postseason.

Kevin Nagle pushed it up to 5-0 when he was able to put away a rebound after Joe Lees had made the initial save.

Once the result tilted heavily toward Pennsbury, the Panthers shifted back to a more traditional formation and let their seniors play it out in their final game.

Senior Dan Mehaffey prevented the shutout after he earned and took a penalty kick with 5:34 left. With the healthy capable seniors on the field, they gave their all down to the final horn.

“We have a lot of guys who are extremely athletic and a lot of heart who play hard and I’m really going to miss them around these parts next year,” Todt said. “Every year that I’ve been here, I think we get a little more disciplined, a little better and think a little faster. I think we’re a half-game better than our record last year and I hope we can keep climbing that ladder.”

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