Pottsgrove stays cool, overtakes Pope John Paul II in District 1-AA first round

Drenched, down a goal, facing an opponent who knew them as well or better than any other, the Pottsgrove boys should have been frantic.

“It’s happened before to us so we’ve learned to just shake it off,” Falcons senior center back Nate Miller said. “We were playing pretty good to start off, so we just kept our heads up and playing our game, acting like it was 0-0.”DSC_0075

It wasn’t too long before it was even when freshman Mike Sereny cancelled out Pope John Paul II senior Eric Brock’s fortuitous goal. Sereny struck again in the second half with an incredible volley from 30 yards out in the 50th minute to give the Falcons the eventual game-winner and a 2-1 victory in an all-Pioneer Athletic Conference first round match in the District 1-AA playoffs.

The Falcons were on the front foot throughout, winning the shots on goal battle decisively, 18-2. Part of that was chalked up to the quick action of Miller – ironically known as ‘Casual Nate’ for his laid-back demeanor off the field – and fellow defenders Jared Krieger, Nikolas Curnew and Patrick O’Brien, who assisted on Sereny’s winner.

“We’ve been working on maintaining possession, getting through balls in and working our guys up top while definitely maintaining a strong back line because that wins games,” Miller said. “If we maintain a strong ‘D’ that can take us to the championship.”

Pottsgrove (11-9), the No. 4 seed, has a major roadblock ahead before the championship in top seed Holy Ghost Prep – a rematch of last season’s 1-AA final (a 3-1 HGP win) – set for Tuesday, Nov. 3, 7 p.m. at Souderton.

DSC_0090Pope John Paul II’s season comes to an end with a 7-10 campaign, but one that signaled a major step forward from 2014 when the Golden Panthers just two victories.

“Last year was a rough season – only one PAC-10 win, two wins overall – so to come from that to being 6-7 in the PAC-10 it was incredible,” PJP captain and goalkeeper Aaron Lemma said. “To make the (district) playoffs after such a rough year last year, it’s a testament to how well our team worked together.”

Lemma split time this season with fellow senior Jimmy Gallo, who got the nod against Pottsgrove and rewarded second-year coach Tom Csongradi with a 16-save performance.

The Falcons convincingly won both regular season meetings – 4-1 on Sept. 9, 3-0 on Oct. 5 – but on a slick, rain-soaked afternoon, crazy things seemed like they could and would happen.

It did in the 15th minute when the ball fell between Pottsgrove keeper Liam Abdalla and the back line while Brock put on the pressure. Curnew tried to make the clearance but Brock got in the way and the ball caromed the other direction and into the net for a 1-0 PJP lead.DSC_0060

Yet it was one of only a few forays deep into the Pottsgrove area for PJP as the Falcons fired on Gallo. Sereny leveled matters in the 30th minute with a left-footed strike through traffic from the right side that flew into the left sidenetting.

His first was solid. His second was sublime.

Abdalla played an early free kick short to left back O’Brien, who carried the ball across midfield and played an early cross toward Sereny. The freshman with just one varsity goal entering the game blasted a volley from 30 yards to flew inch perfect into the top left corner of goal in the 50th minute.

“He’s a great player, coming on as a freshmen. He’s definitely a great finisher and works hard. That was a great volley,” Miller said.

The Falcons weren’t frantic down a goal early, nor were they when up a goal as they closed out the Golden Panthers without too many nervous moments.

NOTES >> Abdalla recorded two saves. … The teams were tied 5-5 in corner kicks. … Along with Brock, Lemma and Gallo, PJP’s other seniors were Adam Bensinger, Peter Carr, Joey Ciccone, Jack Harty, Liam McCluskey and Andrew Thorner. … Pottsgrove midfielder Tyler Rolando was back in the lineup after passing concussion tests following a head injury during the PAC-10 semifinals against Boyertown.

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