Boyertown outlasts Owen J. Roberts in penalty kicks

Bears Levi Roberts hugs OJR goalkeeper Steven Brady following the overtime game. (Kevin Hoffman - The Mercury)
Boyertown goalkeeper Levi Roberts hugs Owen J. Roberts goalkeeper Steven Brady following their overtime game. (Kevin Hoffman – The Mercury)

POTTSTOWN >> Owen J. Roberts had a healthy shots-on-goal advantage throughout the night.

But it didn’t seem the night would end.

Only penalty kicks would end it — and how suddenly and stunningly they do, with two teams running hard for 110 minutes, and one of them finally hitting a brick wall.

Boyertown had only eight shots on goal through regulation and two overtime sessions compared to Owen J. Roberts’ 13. OJR also earned 13 corner kicks to Boyertown’s four. But when it really counted, in the PK session, the Bears delivered big-time, making their first four shots to win an epic PAC-10 boys soccer championship game, 1-1 (4-1 in PKs) over the Wildcats.

Eric Recke, Owen Kulig and Levi Roberts nailed penalty kicks for Boyertown before Will Schul knocked in the clincher, triggering a celebratory team pileup on the field of OJR’s Henry J. Bernat Stadium.

Boyertown goalkeeper Fred Agliano also was huge, denying the first OJR kicker and seeing a second Wildcat try sail high. Jared Cooney was the only Wildcat to connect in the PK session.

“We practice it a lot,” Schul said of the PKs. “We knew it was going to be a close game.”

“Coach (Scott Didyoung) is all about preparation,” standout Boyertown defender Levi Roberts said, “and today we were the more prepared team.”

It was quite an effort from both teams after they split one-goal games in the regular season. All the more satisfying for the Bears (15-3-1), who finished runnerup to OJR in the Liberty Division and lost to the Wildcats in last year’s PAC-10 final, 2-1.

“We came out with a chip on our shoulder,” said Boyertown’s Danny Yudt. “Last year it didn’t go our way.”

OJR Jason Long and Bears Kyle Sheahan chase down loose ball at midfield. (Kevin Hoffman - The Mercury)
OJR Jason Long and Bears Kyle Sheahan chase down loose ball at midfield. (Kevin Hoffman – The Mercury)

Yudt said Agliano’s making a save on the first OJR PK took all the pressure off.

“We kept saying to ourselves, ‘This isn’t last year,’” added Roberts. “Once they scored that goal (to tie the game), we had to keep fighting. We knew if we got to PKs we would win, because we had the PAC-10’s best goalie right there.”

Throughout the game, Boyertown’s defenders and midfielders held their ground as OJR usually applied most of the pressure.

“I thought we had the better of the overtimes, too,” said OJR coach Eric Wentzel. “We had some good looks. We certainly had our chances but we couldn’t put it away.

“But give Boyertown credit, and their keeper made some good saves.”

Boyertown, a finalist in six of the last eight PAC-10 Final Fours, won its first conference crown since 2012. The Bears got the first goal with three minutes left in the first half when Schul, finding a deft header from Alex Kidwell, banged in a 25-yarder.

OJR (14-5) answered eight minutes into the second half on Bruce Dowlin’s shot right of the box after a header from Boyertown went awry.

That was it for the scoring until the PKs. Boyertown, led offensively at times by Yudt, mounted more charges as regulation wound down. OJR really picked up its possession time even more into the OTs, and Agliano was on his toes.

Each team dodged a bullet in the OTs. With 8:10 to go in the first OT, OJR had a great chance with Taurean Lee lurking near the net and collecting a loose ball, but his shot went just a bit wide of the left post. Late in the first OT, under two minutes to go, Schul’s shot from the left side hit the right post. OJR keeper Steven Brady made a couple key saves, as Agliano had, in the second OT.

While OJR got a good number of shots, there just weren’t many open ones as Boyertown’s technical execution defensively kept the Bears out of danger.

“We always work together as a unit,” Roberts said. “Our system is a 4-2-3-1, with two D-mids, and those D-mids help our center backs so much. It’s a fantastic system and we played it great tonight.”

Bears Kyle Sheahan moves ball upfield defended by OJR Austin Koury. (Kevin Hoffman - The Mercury)
Boyertown’s Kyle Sheahan moves the ball upfield defended by Owen J. Roberts’ Austin Koury. (Kevin Hoffman – The Mercury)

Likewise, OJR’s corner kicks were quickly thwarted.

“Last year, restarts were our Achilles heel,” Yudt said. “We’d lose games off of restarts. This year, we’re not letting that happen.”

“We’re not the biggest team,” Roberts said, “so we have to be aggressive in the box and we were.”

Both teams could be a handful in the District One tournament.

“I told our team we’re going to get it together for districts next week,” Wentzel said. “I mean, going 14-4, 11-2 in the league, and losing the final on penalty kicks, you can’t get upset about that. It’s not like we came out here and laid down and they walked all over us.”

Boyertown, which lost in the first round of districts last year after the deflating conference final loss to OJR, is riding some momentum now.

“If you don’t like playing under pressure, then why play?” Roberts said with a smile.

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