Lazaric header puts Pennsbury past Great Valley in district opener

FALLS TWP. – Pennsbury had not trailed in the first half in any game this season, yet here they were, behind 1-0 early facing 27th-seeded Great Valley. Five minutes into the contest, a pair of Patriot seniors – Colin Deitch and Nick Chawaga – combined on a goal that put the visitors up 1-0.

Instead of deflating the sixth-seeded Falcons, the goal seemed to energize the home team. The end result was a 2-1 victory that sends the Orange and Black to a second-round district pairing at home Thursday afternoon against No. 11 Lower Merion, which outpaced Neshaminy in penalty kicks.

“We knew we had to come out and get a win today,” said Pennsbury junior Zach LoBasso. “We were playing so the seniors didn’t have to go home early.

“We’re trying to get our first district title ever as a program so we’re trying as hard as we can all the time.”

Even GV head coach Dave Moffett admitted the Pats’ goal seemed to energize the Falcons.

“Once we scored, they fought back with that tying goal very quickly,” said Moffett.

“We’ve been up and down throughout the year but I thought we played really well today. We had chances to tie this game up and some chances early to extend the lead.

“We’re frustrated; we feel like we let it slip away.”

Pennsbury (13-4-2) had something to do with that. After the goal by Great Valley, the Falcons wasted no time getting the equalizer. Six minutes later, junior forward John Griffin got a leg on the end of a cross by senior Brad Edwards and the Falcons – who outshot the Patriots 10-3 in the first half – seemed to dictate play the rest of the way.

Still, it was a tie game, more than 18 minutes into the second half. Around that time, Pennsbury was awarded a free kick from the right side of the penalty box. Leading scorer Colin Marks left-footed the kick into the danger zone and junior Biagio Lazaric got a head onto the ball redirecting the bouncing ball into the back of the net for the game-winner.

“We told (Colin) Marks to make sure he whipped the ball in there and he whipped it in,” stated Falcons head coach Tom Stoddart. “Biagio Lazaric, who has been so close over the last couple of years of scoring big goals for us, and today, he got one.

“He just needed to redirect it slightly. A little guy but he got up among all those guys and was able to redirect it home for us.

“It was a huge goal for a kid who absolutely deserves it. He comes off the bench and works so hard for us.”

While Pennsbury led for only the last 21 minutes, once the Falcons tied the game, they were on their way.

“Until the last couple minutes, it’s not about having to score, it’s about settling down and playing and being the better soccer team,” explained Stoddart. “We finally did that in the second half. Their nerves went away, ours went away and it just became a matter of time.”

Still, even the Falcon faithful had some jitters in the beginning.

“The hardest thing about this tournament is getting started and it showed in that first ten minutes,” admitted Stoddart.

“We came out a little rattled. But once we got that goal back, it helped us settle down a little bit.

“Once we got refocused, I thought we had the better of (play) in the second half.

Indeed. A constants barrage on the Patriots’ net provided by Marks (10 goals, 8 assists), LoBasso (6 goals, 3 assists) and Griffin (8 goals, 4 assists), kept the pressure on visiting Great Valley, which won the D-1 trophy two years ago and was both state and district runners-up in 2014.

“Colin has the most goals and the most assists on the team, and Zach is a fantastic soccer player so it’s good to get him going. Johnny Griffin has been good for one goal per game for the last two weeks so he’s a huge piece for us.

“Hopefully, that continues.”

For eleven 12th-graders that make up the senior class for Great Valley, it marks the end of an era.

After capturing a district title in 2013, their first one in eight seasons, the Patriots came back to the tournament last year and upset several teams including No. 2 Neshaminy when they got past the Skins 3-2 in overtime.

After that, Great Valley upset No. 10 West Chester Rustin and No. 3 Wissahickon before falling to No. 4 CB East in the final. In states, they defeated District 11 champ Southern Lehigh, District 3 champ Reading and D-3 third-place finisher Mechanicsburg before falling to D-7 champ Peters Township.

“They are the defending PIAA runners-up over there so you had to respect that,” stated Stoddart.

“I thought we did that and in the end, we got out with a victory.”

Ironically, the last time the Patriots were eliminated early in the postseason was in 2012 when the Falcons – state qualifiers that year – defeated them 3-2 in penalty kicks in the second round of districts.

This year, after finishing 8-5 in the Ches-Mont League American Division, second to Unionville (9-4), Great Valley finished its campaign at 9-8-2, overall.

When it was all over, Moffett reflected on opportunities lost in this one.

“We wanted to work the ball down the flanks and at the same time, we wanted to tighten up some things, defensively. We felt if we could string a pass or two together, we could create some things.”

“They are a good solid team with a lot of weapons but it’s one of those things – a district playoff that’s close enough that you’re frustrated with a 2-1 loss.”

The GV coach pointed to a pair of wins over division rivals, one in regulation over West Chester Rustin and another in overtime against Unionville, among the Pats’ highlights this season.

Contact the author at, @BucksLocalSport on Twitter

Pennsbury 2, Great Valley 1

(Oct. 27 at Pennsbury)

Great Valley            1 0 — 1

Pennsbury               1 1 — 2

FIRST-HALF GOALS: Colin Deitch (GV), from Nick Chawaga, 5th minute; John Griffon (P), from Brad Edwards, 11th minute

SECOND-HALF GOALS: Biagio Lazaric (P) from Marks, 59th minute

SHOTS: Great Valley 8, Pennsbury 15

SAVES: David Nehring (GV) 8; Anthony Rosso (P) 2

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