LOWER POTTSGROVE >> Council Rock South came into the District 1-4A boys soccer playoffs as the No.19 seed. But despite that mediocre ranking, the Golden Hawks are headed to the PIAA Tournament for the first time since 2004 after a 2-0 quarterfinal win over sixth-seeded Boyertown Saturday afternoon at Pottsgrove High School.
Gavin Hagan scored on penalty kicks with 26 and 24 minutes remaining and goalkeeper Kieran Barry made seven saves to send the Golden Hawks (15-5-1) into a semifinal on Tuesday at No. 2 seed Lower Merion, a 2-0 winner over North Penn.
Boyertown (15-7) will need to win two playback games this coming week in order to claim the district’s fifth and last state berth.
“I’m confident every time I go up,” Hagan said concerning his penalty kick opportunities. “If anybody wins or loses, it’s going to be on my hands.”
The first PK chance came after a triple-teamed Hawk went down in the box while trying to control a long free kick. Hagan knocked the kick into the lower left corner and then converted another two minutes later after another teammate went down in the box.
“I thought we had the better chances of the day,” said South coach Alan Nicholl. “Both teams played pretty tight. I thought we played with the ball in their third more than they did in our third. You’ve got to be in the box to get those chances.”
“I think it’s definitely our energy,” said Barry. “The way we play as a team. We’re a tight team. Energy brings a lot to us.”
The Bears had chances to get right back in the game after falling behind. Beckett Wenger took a pass from Matt Selders and went in alone five minutes later, but chipped a shot over the crossbar. Then Barry made the defensive play of the game when he dove to his right for a fingertip save on another try by Wenger with 14 minutes left and then grabbed a blast from the left by Wenger on the goal line with six to go.
Barry controlled loose balls throughout the day and got his team out of trouble on several occasions with booming punts into Bear territory.
“I try to control the area,” he said. “But it’s a big shout out to Isaac Burenga and Lex Lenoir. They make my job easy and do more than I do.”
“I thought they (the Hawks) played well,” said Boyertown coach Matt Danner. “They had big bodies, a style that we weren’t used to. They played rough.”
The play was even for most of the day with end to end action and both teams having their chances. South had the first serious threat on a blast on goal by Frankie Rafferty midway through the first half, but Boyertown keeper Nick Rothenberger (4 saves) made a quick one-handed deflection and the ball sailed over the goal.
Then the Bears earned a corner kick and Nathan Seip put a follow-up shot on goal, but Barry made the save. Boyertown wound up with six corner kicks to the Hawks’ three.
“We had our opportunities,” said Danner. “Unfortunately, they didn’t result in goals.”
The Hawks have now won three district games, including decisions over No.14 Spring-Ford and No. 3 Downingtown West.
“I feel, as a group, we don’t care about rankings,” said Hagan. “People are going to look down on us because of our lower ranking.”
“We knew almost nothing about them,” Barry said concerning the Bears. “We were just excited to play with the motivation of getting to states.”
Boyertown will host a playback game on Tuesday. A win will send them into the contest for fifth place on Friday.
“We’ve got to regroup,” said Danner.
South had little time to think about doing well in the playoffs as it battled through the tough Suburban One League during the regular season.
“To get out of our league is a big deal,” said Nicholl. “It’s just a reflection of how competitive our league is.”