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Mick Kuhl goal lifts Owen J. Roberts, 1-0 over Boyertown

Owen J. Roberts midfielder Ethan Williams, left, contests the ball from Boyertown's Mason Lorah on Wednesday. (Evan Wheaton - MediaNews Group)

BOYERTOWN >> The nucleus of Owen J. Roberts’ boys soccer team contains four All-Area selections in Ethan Williams, Nicky Gambone, Joey Kish and Andrew Keddie. But on Wednesday, a different name appeared on the radar.

Sophomore midfielder Mick Kuhl scored the lone goal of the game — and the second of his young varsity career — to lift the Wildcats over Boyertown, 1-0 in a PAC Liberty tilt on the road.

In the 34th minute, Williams took a direct kick that was quickly deflected. The senior captain regained possession of the ball and sent it towards Gambone inside the box, who tried to head it in.

“I just saw it deflect off of Nicky, goalkeeper misread it, mishandled it and I tapped it in,” Kuhl said. “It’s definitely a big confidence boost, especially against Boyertown, a big rival of ours. It feels good to walk away with a W.”

Kuhl met Bears keeper Brayden Risser (four saves) at the net and tucked it through after the latter made a dive to halt Gambone’s effort. Both offenses were contained to seven shots as both back lines limited opportunities all day.

In his eighth year at Owen J. Roberts (3-2, 2-0), Joe Youngblood has begun his tenure as head coach of the program with a 2-0 start in league play. With prior chemistry already established with the aforementioned nucleus and young talent that’s come through the ranks, the Wildcats are getting off on the right foot to kick off the fall.

“In years past, we always struggled in the beginning of the year finding our legs. This is huge for us to start off 2-0 and be 3-2 overall at this point,” Youngblood said. “Some tough games early in the season didn’t go our way but here we were able to get the result we needed.”

Boyertown’s Chase Bartman sends a pass against Owen J. Roberts on Wednesday. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

The Bears (0-3-1, 0-1) found a much-needed spark in the 65th minute. Risser was tasked with defending a penalty kick from Williams and did just that, diving and deflecting a shot from the OJR captain to keep the game within one score.

After the ball rolled out, Risser got up, greeted by hugs and daps from his teammates and Boyertown came back out all gas, no breaks offensively, tacking on four second-half shots and pressuring Owen J. Roberts in its territory.

“I thought we played well the whole game. We didn’t commit a lot of turnovers, but we forced a lot of turnovers and we just didn’t capitalize on those opportunities,” Bears coach Matt Danner said. “Late in that second half, they get that PK and Brayden comes up big with a save. I thought we played well up to that point and it gave us some energy. Unfortunately we couldn’t finish and put one in.”

Like Risser, Keddie registered four saves for the Wildcats. Boyertown didn’t create its first corner kick until the 56th minute, but rifled off five from there to Owen J. Roberts’ three.

Boyertown graduated 14 seniors — including All-State forward and 2021 Mercury All-Area Player of the Year Beckett Wenger — in the offseason and entered the 2022 campaign with seven.

Coming off a PAC championship heartbreaker in penalty kicks last season, the Bears wield a younger roster and half its senior capacity than last year. But Boyertown already showed signs of contending in the conference in a tight contest.

“It’s one of the things we’ve been working on in practice, being cohesive, being together, making sure we come out together as a team or drop together as a team,” Danner said. “Unfortunately, the time where they scored was when we were in a little bit of miscommunication, and that cost us. Sometimes that’s all it takes, one mistake.”

Owen J. Roberts midfielder Isaac Stephenson chases the ball against a Boyertown opponent on Wednesday. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

In a wide-open PAC Liberty division, Owen J. Roberts did just enough to gain some early footing over Boyertown. But according to Youngblood, there’s just as much talent coming up for the Bears as there was on the way out last season.

“They had a good freshmen class last year. Having the opportunity to coach against them in JV, I really saw their potential,” Youngblood said. “They’re on their way, they’re gonna beat some teams down the stretch as these younger guys really come into their own. It’s gonna be no easy game on the back end when we play them at our place.”

Owen J. Roberts 1, Boyertown 0
Owen J. Roberts 1 0 – 1
Boyertown 0 0 – 0

OJR – Mick Kuhl, 34th minute
B – 7, OJR – 7
B – Risser (4), OJR – Keddie (4)
B – 5, OJR – 3

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