North Penn falls to CB East on PKs

DOYLESTOWN >> By design, penalty kicks are set up for goalkeepers to fail.
It pits one man against another, only the keeper is trying to prevent a ball from entering the gaping net behind him and he can only guess and react to what his foe is doing. The shooter holds all the power, but also all the pressure.
Keepers aren’t expected to save penalty kicks, so when they do, it’s a huge bonus.
Saturday night at CB West’s War Memorial Field, Austin Prime saved two. Because he did, CB East stayed alive in the District I Class AAA boys’ soccer playoffs and North Penn was sent home.
Prime was brilliant in the shootout that sent East on in a 0(3)-0(1) quarterfinal duel with the Knights. With only the top four teams qualifying for states, North Penn saw its campaign come to an end.
“Toward the end of the second overtime, I started to expect it,” the Patriots senior keeper said. “I had to mentally prepare for it and expect it. It’s hard, you can never totally prepare for that pressure but I was trying to read the player as best I can. I read our players in practice, you just make a gut-check and go for it.”
Gut-check was a pretty good way to describe the game, which pitted the top seeded Patriots against North Penn, a team that had played them as tough as anyone all year. East had won the first two meetings, 2-1 in overtime and 1-0, so it was no surprise the third game was as equal.
North Penn was terrific defensively, containing East’s star forward, Evan Vare, along with the rest of the Patriots weapons. While they played 110 minutes of excellent soccer, the Knights couldn’t find the goal they needed.
“It goes down to PKs and their keeper made a few good saves and we missed a couple,” North Penn coach Paul Duddy said. “Our keeper (Jordan Katz) made a good save in PKs and it was just well-played defensively both ways by both teams as you would expect. East always plays well and are very organized.”
After a fairly even start, CB East started to impose itself. The Patriots had a couple of throws deep in the Knights end and tested North Penn’s back line.
The game’s first real chance elicited a moment of controversy. East’s Alex Parasky took a crack from the right side to the far post that appeared to hit part of the wheel strut on the side of the net before caroming back out and to the hands of Katz.
East players thought the ball was in and started to celebrate before the official closest to the net said no goal. East’s bench erupted in protest but to no avail. The official confirmed at halftime that while the ball struck part of the frame, it never fully crossed the line.
A few moments later, Evan Vare put a header on target that was handled by Katz. East’s back line helped keep the pressure on by closing down North Penn in the East defensive third.
North Penn started to find its way when Musa Sheriff was subbed in. The speedy forward was able to run down a ball and forced a charging Prime into a save.
In a game with a state playoff bid on the line and the end of a season for one team, it was just a good, hard-fought contest. That too was no surprise, given the measure of the men at the head of each team.
“We have an amazing relationship and respect with Coach Duddy and his staff,” East coach Mike Gorni said. “They have given us, easily, three of our hardest games this year. They’re so gracious, I think that gets lost in it, their integrity. It’s easy when you win to be that way, but they are just a class program all around.”
The Knights took a big blow with 9:41 left in the half when Nick Kwortnik and Eric Rosenblatt collided in mid-air trying to win a ball. Both had to come out, with Kwortnik needing attention for a cut on his lip. Neither player was able to return to the game, with Kwortnik leaving to get stitched up and returning before the conclusion of the contest.
“That didn’t help but I’m not blaming it on that,” Duddy said. “We stepped up, we played 110 minutes. They’re the best team in the area, East is. They beat us three times this year and that’s the facts. It’s tough to swallow, we’ve been so close, but that’s the end result.”
Parasky got off one more shot that Katz covered before the game went to intermission scoreless.
Duddy conceded that East had the better of play in the first half, but felt his team matched it in the second. Indeed, the second half was much like the first, with both teams probing and working the ball but not many chances to go with it. Vare had a free kick from a dangerous position late in the half, but sent his volley high over the bar.
With 8:57 left in the first overtime, Katz was involved in a collision with an East player going for a 50/50 ball. The senior stayed in, despite a noticeable limp and made three key saves, including a point-blank denial on Brian Gilligan, to help send the game to penalties.
“This was a difficult one,” Gorni said. “We needed to be blessed tonight, a little fortunate, certainly when anything goes to PKs.
“There weren’t going to be any surprises tonight. We play other teams and having scouting reports, this and that but these kids just know each other inside and out. It was a matter of two really competitive teams that had to sort it out. It was a really even game. We just had enough to get through.”
That enough came from Prime, who stuffed North Penn’s final two penalty kicks. The keeper said he didn’t know exactly what the Knight shooters would do, but he just had belief in himself.
It was a tough ending to a successful season for the Knights. Despite graduating some gifted players from last year’s team, these Knights formed their own identity and made their own success. Injuries hit at inopportune times, but in the end, they left everything they had on the field.
Sometimes, there’s just a better team.
“When all is said and done, I think a lot of people did not think we would be as competitive this year,” Duddy said. “The guys stepped right up. A couple stepped up from JV and gave us way more minutes than I thought they would. Just credit to them. They play tough but it’s a tough game.”

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