WEST NORRITON >> Norristown continued its playoff push Tuesday night when it picked up a 2-1 Pioneer Athletic Conference Liberty Division win over Owen J. Roberts at Norristown Area High School.
The Eagles (9-6, 3-5 PAC Liberty) entered the game ranked No. 26 in the District 1-4A standings. Beating the Wildcats (9-8, 3-6 PAC Liberty), who were ranked No. 20, gives Norristown a better chance at cracking the top 24 and earning a playoff berth.
“(Districts have) been the goal from the start,” Norristown coach Jason Pinnock said. “We were hoping for PAC-10 playoffs but we’re not going to get there, we were still figuring it out early in the season. We’ve got three more games left. We’re going to fight. They want it. I want it for them. I’m proud of them. Hopefully we can do it.”
“This is the first year we’ve ever won a PAC game,” Norristown senior Diego Guzman said. “To be able to make it to districts too, it would be a great accomplishment. We hope we can and we will.”
After a 2-0 win over Spring-Ford and a 3-0 win over Coatesville, Norristown’s third straight victory wasn’t easy. In the 15th minute, Guzman gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead that stood for 60 minutes. OJR’s Nicky Gambone tied the game with 5:18 remaining. The teams were even for just 14 seconds before Israel Gonzalez netted the game-winner for Norristown.
Gonzalez, Guzman and Josmel Carmona connected for the game-winning goal. They went forward with the kickoff and Gonzalez’ initial shot was saved by the keeper, but came right back to him and he put it into the back of the net.
“It just shows that we don’t fall off as a team,”Guzman said of the immediate response. “We don’t get mad at each other. We just keep pushing and we did what we had to do.”
“These guys, they’re making history,” Pinnock said. “We’ve never been able to compete against any of these (PAC Liberty) teams. They want it bad. They realize that they can do this. I’m glad that I’m here for them, but as much as it is me changing the program, they’re doing it as well. I couldn’t do it without them and they couldn’t do it without me. Both ways.”
Guzman’s goal to get the game started was set up by Gabriel Barroso. A ball looked like it was heading out of bounds along OJR’s endline. Barroso hustled, worked around the defender’s shield and crossed the ball to the far post, where Guzman put it away into the right side-wall for a 1-0 Norristown lead.
Guzman had a handful of other opportunities to score. He put a couple strong shots from 20 yards away just wide and had a few other chances from tough angles that couldn’t find the back of the net. His consistent pressure early in the second half helped keep OJR on its heels and stop the Wildcats from sending more players forward.
“Unfortunately I didn’t score as many as I wanted to,” Guzman said. “I had a lot of opportunities, but that pressure is making them panic and allowing my teammates to open up. If I get double-teamed I always have that one teammate open.”
With 14 minutes left in the game, Guzman was shaken up and had to head to the sidelines. Owen J. Roberts generated some great scoring opportunities during the six minutes Guzman was out, but he returned with eight minutes remaining and the score remained 1-0.
“(Guzman’s) really good,” Owen J. Roberts coach Eric Wentzel said. “He’s one of the best players in the league. He’s really good. I thought we established more play there when he was out of the game. I moved Austin Chanmbers up – he’s a more dynamic player who plays center-back. Once I moved him up, 15 seconds later, he found Nicky (Gambone) for a breakaway.”
Gambone scored the equalizer in the 75th minute. He got the ball around midfield and raced past the defenders to the right side of the box. He beat the keeper to the far-side of the goal to tie the game at one.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Wentzel said of Norristown’s quick game-winning score. “It was such a blur it happened so fast. I think we scored then we relaxed. We talk about all the time trying to establish the first five minutes after a goal either way. We try to do the right thing, but they just went right down the middle of the field. We didn’t play well tonight. We didn’t look interested. We just didn’t look like the team that had won eight out of 10. We didn’t look like that team for whatever reason and I’ll take responsibility for that. It’s my job to get them ready to play and we weren’t ready for whatever reason.”
The Norristown defense kept the ball out of harm’s way for the final five minutes. Jesus Carmona, Adan Morales and Maynor Garcia all made key plays down the stretch to keep Norristown ahead until the final whistle.
The Eagles have three games remaining this season – Boyertown Thursday, Methacton Saturday and Penn Wood Monday – to try to get into the District 1 playoffs.
Owen J. Roberts is also looking to earn a playoff berth. They finish their season with Spring-Ford Thursday.
“Our goal all along,” Wentzel said, “even after the 1-5 start was to try to make districts. That’s been our goal all along. We have one more game to try to do it. We made our life tougher, but we’ll go out and play and see what happens.”
Norristown 2, Owen J. Roberts 1
Owen J. Roberts 0 1 – 1
Norristown 1 1 – 2
Goals: OJR: Nicky Gambone. NOR: Diego Guzman, Israel Gonzalez.
Saves: OJR: Andrew Keddie 5. NOR: Alex Rosas 5.
Corners: OJR: 1. NOR: 3.