KENNETT SQUARE >> A non-league tilt in May between quality programs like Penncrest (of the Central League) and Kennett (of the Ches-Mont) is going to be all about postseason positioning.
There were lapses and head-scratchers on both sides Saturday, but both the Lions and Blue Demons showed promising stretches, which is a good sign for the upcoming District 1 playoffs in classes 2A and 3A, respectively.
Visiting Penncrest had the lead once in the very early going, and fell behind by six in both the first and again in the second half. The Lions surged back both times, but still didn’t have quite enough to catch a Kennett squad that has now won nine of the last 10. The final score: 15-11.
“It’s always a battle every year against Penncrest,” said Demon’s head coach Bob Allvord. “It seems like we are very similar. So we showed some guts to hang in there.
“We bounced back from Thursday (a 13-6 loss to Ches-Mont champion Downingtown East), and this was a good win for us.”
Now 13-3 overall, Kennett has one more non-conference clash (Methacton) before wrapping up the regular season at rival Unionville on May 11th. The Lions fall to 8-8 overall, after starting the season with seven straight wins. But injuries have been a big factor, with five starters out for the season.
“We’ve had a lot of major injuries,” said Penncrest head coach Wayne Matsinger.
“Plus we just ended a week of Garnet Valley, Springfield (Delco), Holy Ghost Prep (Friday) and Kennett today.”
Trailing 12-6 late in the third quarter, the Lions made one last comeback bid by scoring two quick goals in a two-minute stretch, including one by freshman standout Spencer Meile, to make it 12-8.
Moments later, however, Demons’ powerful midfielder Colin Jung ended the rally with a laser from distance with 8:44 on the clock. And not long after Penncrest added two more goals to pull within 13-10 with less than four minutes on the clock, Jung did it again from just about the same spot on a similar shot. It proved to be enough of a cushion.
“Colin is a beast. He’s quite the player,” Allvord said.
“Those helped settle us down a bit because it was starting to get a little panicky. Penncrest was coming, momentum was shifting, and he just shut that down.”
In the opening half, Kennett scored seven straight to take control midway through the first half, but the Lions were undaunted. Trailing 1-0 early, the Demons scored five times in the latter half of the first period by five different players – including twice in the final 36 seconds.
And after seniors Reagan Pelletier and Zach Hulme each notched their second goals of the contest, it was 7-1. But the Lions got back into contention by notching three goals in the final 3:27 of the first half, which included two by Meile and a man-up tally by Matt Ferry. And when Meile converted a man-up situation early in the second half, the deficit was sliced to 7-5.
“(Meile) is a sniper,” Matsinger said. “He leads us in scoring and he’s a force to be reckoned with down the road.
“In that stretch the kids were finally clicking when they realized if they drove to the net at the right times, completed passes and got ground balls, good things happen.”
Thanks to a trio of top performers, however – Jung, Hulme and junior Bo Freebery – Kennett surged back with five straight tallies. Jung had two, Freebery had two (and an assist) and Hulme unleashed a missile to up the margin to six once again.
“Coach Allvord got on us for (the lapses). A lot of it was the weather. It’s hot and the guys were getting tired, but we responded,” said Jung, who finished with four goals and two assists.
“They are teenagers and when they get a big lead they tend to stray a tad mentally,” Allvord explained. “I want them to understand that the game has to be played with urgency throughout.
“I was also frustrated with the penalties. You give that to a team like (Penncrest), that is well coached, and they are going to cash in if you don’t stay out of the box.”
Meile led all scorers with seven goals, and Ferry chipped in three for Penncrest.
“Between (Bo) Freebery, (Zach) Hulme and (Colin) Jung, those are three of the best players out there,” Matsinger said. “They are smart and savvy, and very good shooters.
“We are on a slide. We’ve got one win in the last eight. We have a lot of guys filling in, and they are going the best they can. But it just wasn’t good enough on a day like today.”
Hulme wound up with four goals and an assist, and Freebery added three goals and two assists. The Demons also got a big outing from sophomore Colin Kelly, who went 18 of 28 on faceoffs, including an 11-5 edge in the second half.
“Momentum is everything, and Colin on the faceoff helped us big-time,” Allvord said.
“We are not a one-man or two-man team,” Jung added. “Everybody on the field is a factor, and you saw that today. Reagan Pelletier had two goals today, (Colin Kelly) was big in the circle, and the defense stepped up.
“We’re hoping to get a good seed for districts, and this win will help us. Penncrest is always good.”
Kennett 15, Penncrest 11
Penncrest 1 3 3 4 — 11
Kennett 5 2 5 3 — 15
Penncrest goals: Meile 7, Ferry 3, Goldstein.
Kennett goals: Jung 4, Hulme 4, Freebery 3, Maiers, Pelletier 2, Good.
Goalie saves: Feinman (P) 3; Paukstis (P) 7; Kelly (K) 9.