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North Penn uses late goal to edge Pennridge

TOWAMENCIN >> It’s  been two wins in two games for North Penn boys soccer, but the Knights wouldn’t mind finding another way to go about them.

Another late goal backed up by another big save late helped push the Knights to their second straight one-goal win over a major rival as they opened up the 2020 season. Pennridge had plenty of motivation to top North Penn and with the chances coming both ways, it wasn’t truly settled until the last whistle

The overall product may not be finished, but the Knights will still take the result as JoJo Dalwadi’s late tally gave North Penn a 2-1 win over the Rams on Thursday.

“We probably gave up too many chances, we have to stop taking dumb fouls, but the way we stayed in it, it was good to see us stick with it late and get that goal,” Knights coach Chris DePeppe said. “It wasn’t pretty, but it was a typical high school soccer game.”

North Penn, which topped Central Bucks West 1-0 on Tuesday to open the season, started probing early with Josh Jones getting the game’s first shot on goal not even a minute in. The early pressure by North Penn paid off, as the Knights were able to take advantage of a Rams turnover deep in their own defensive third.

Off a throw-in, Nate Kim was able to flick the ball by a defender and find Jovani Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who scored the winner on Tuesday, fired a shot that just found the inside of the far post and tucked in for the 1-0 lead with 33:35 left in the first half.

It was another costly moment for Pennridge, which came in off a 1-0 loss to Central Bucks East in its opener.

“We have three goals against and we can look at them all on tape and see mistakes we’ve made to hurt ourselves,” Rams coach Pete Valimont said. “The effort was fantastic, it’s the defending state champ and you’re tied with eight minutes left in it. It’s tough mentally and physically giving that one up late, but we did a great job and we’ll be fine.”

North Penn continued to carry momentum after its opening goal, but the Rams soon found themselves settled in and started to ask questions. Ben Scary hit the crossbar off a free kick and Tom McKinney forced a save from Knights senior Sawyer Meade, who was busy all afternoon as Pennridge leveled number of scoring chances by the break.

CB West and Pennridge play very different styles, so North Penn had to adjust to the opposition in both games. DePeppe noted the play of center backs Hunter Stites and Ryan Mindick on Thursday and Meade felt the entire defensive unit held tough.

“Today, especially with their amazing midfield, they held the ball really well so we had to focus on our counter-attacks and scoring on counters,” Meade said. “The second ball was really important. We know Josh (Jones) is going to win most of the head balls, but we really had to focus on the second balls.”

Pennridge’s 3-4-3 formation is good at putting numbers up offensively and with pace in the forward spots, backs always have to be on their toes. Early in the second half, Rams senior Carlos Erazo used his speed to get into a one-v-one scenario, then drew a foul just inside the North Penn 18 to set up a penalty kick.

Scary, a senior co-captain, put it away to tie the score 1-1 with 36:06 left. However, despite nine other shots on frame from the run of play, seven corner kicks and at least as many free kicks, Pennridge wasn’t able to find another score on the day.

“We are in a tough league where we play four games against the two state finalists (West and North Penn) from last year and you have a short season with no idea still what’s going on for playoffs,” Valimont said. “We could be one of the stronger teams and our win-loss record doesn’t show it. We have to get ready for next week with two tough ones against West and Souderton.”

Over the final 20 minutes, the two sides traded numerous opportunities, with Jones having a header turned aside by CJ Dimmick and Meade stoning shots by Scary and Colin Monahan. North Penn’s midfield, led by a strong game from Alex Stewart, started to unlock some space by playing the ball out and wide to the forwards.

Senior Dominik Gedek was on the receiving end on a few of those passes and his technical ability helped lead to the breakthrough effort. Jones found his classmate out on the left wing with a bit less than nine minutes left, with Gedek making an unorthodox foray into the Pennridge box before firing off a shot to the far post.

His effort was stopped by Dimmick, but the ball stayed live which allowed Dalwadi to finish a crashing run and poke the ball across the line with 8:36 to play.

“We had to find the numbers wide and break through their backline,” Gedek said. “I’m looking to go forward, take on a man and either get a shot or cross off to a teammate for them to finish. It was a little bit of a weird run, I headed it three times in the air, got it past a defender and looked to shoot.

“Unfortunately, it hit off the keeper but thanks to my teammate JoJo for being there to hit it in.”

Meade, who had a clutch save to preserve Tuesday’s win, did so again on Thursday. About a minute after the Knights go-ahead goal, Rams midfielder Kevin Link got the ball in wide open space which he used to hit a low strike that Meade had to cover.

The Rams had a few more chances before time ran out, with Meade stopping Aidan Castle and Link again as well as Shane Velez pushing a header wide of goal. For the senior keeper, who was between the posts during North Penn’s state title last year, it was a challenging few minutes.

“It’s a huge adrenaline rush,” Meade said. “It’s awesome when we’re able to clear it out, it’s such a huge relief but when they’re attacking, it definitely gets tense. I feel like more of a leader now and I know the guys look up to me so I have to respect that.”

With the SOL only playing conference games this fall, each date on the schedule takes on that much more importance. While North Penn was happy to get out of the first week with a pair of results, the Knights know they don’t have much time to figure out who they want to be this fall.

“It feels almost like postseason play all season this year,” DePeppe said. “It’s great being 2-0, but there’s no rest for the weary. We’re adapting right now, but we have to figure out our style of play and start dictating games a bit.”

NORTH PENN 2, PENNRIDGE 1
NORTH PENN 1 1 – 2
PENNRIDGE 0 1 – 1
Goals: NP – Jovani Gonzalez (Nate Kim), JoJo Dalwadi (Dominik Gedek); P – Ben Scary (PK). Shots: NP 8, P 10. Saves: NP Sawyer Meade 9, P CJ Dimmick 5. Corners: NP 1, P 7.

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