By John Knebels (photos by Kathy Leister)
PHILADELPHIA - Catholic League, meet the rest of Pennsylvania. The rest of Pennsylvania, meet the Catholic League.
The PIAA state soccer tournament begins November 6. Each of the four division classes are represented by teams from the Catholic League, a testament to the outstanding competition that fans enjoyed throughout the past two months.
Now comes an entirely different set of challenges. Instead of facing familiar foes, opponents will be new, coming from schools that most local folks never even heard of.
Roman Catholic, Archbishop Wood, Lansdale Catholic, and Devon Prep will represent District 12 top seeds in the Class 4A, 3A, 2A, and 1A, respectively. The former two recently wore each other out in the Catholic League championship, with Wood emerging victorious in penalty kicks after a scoreless regulation and two sudden-death overtime periods.
According to Roman coach Ray DeStephanis, the Cahillites had no problem re-energizing themselves after a devastating defeat on October 28.
“They pretty much figured it out for themselves,” said DeStephanis, whose Cahillites have reached the Catholic League championship an amazing five consecutive seasons. “We said all we had to say after the PCL championship match that night. We moved on quickly because we knew that we still had a chance to make some history for ourselves.”
Roman Catholic had never won a city/district title before blanking Northeast High School, 5-0, on Saturday. The Cahillites received goals from five different players (seniors Jared Dillon, Eric Williams, and Danny Hogan; juniors Shawn Rostucher and Gilbert Newton), and the defense and goaltending by junior Kevin Tobin did the rest.
“It was a good week of practice and self evaluation,” said DeStephanis. “Our effort in the (city/district) championship was satisfying in that we played the way we know we can and, quite frankly, the way we should.”
Dillon and Williams concurred.
“We knew we had to win to give ourselves another chance to get in the state tournament and we focused on Northeast,” said Dillon. “We knew they weren’t going be an easy game.”
Added Williams: “We had to play it like we would play any other game and come out with good intensity.”
Archbishop Wood also snared a shutout in a convincing 5-0 victory over Franklin Towne Charter.
The Vikings took over quickly. Senior Koty Taylor scored twice while senior Christian Petro and sophomore Brayden Gyza each added a goal, and Wood took an overwhelming 4-0 lead into the locker room.
Franklin Towne errantly scored on itself midway through the second to close the scoring.
“The defense as a whole played great and stopped them from getting too many chances on goal,” said Wood senior goalie Connor Ford. “Overall, it was a solid team performance and a good win.”
“We knew that we had a big game against a good team and we had to come ready to play,” said senior Joe Trodden. “The team knew that if we didn’t come ready, we could be on the losing end of the scoreboard. However, we came out and played hard and played as a team and were able to find success. It was a good team win.”
Devon Prep bounced back from a Catholic League first-round loss and walloped Masterman, 8-2. Senior Nick Bello netted a hat trick to push his career total to 60. Senior Geordy Kweder scored twice. Junior Max Fortebuono, senior Connor Kelly, and junior Jack Eshleman added one apiece.
“We were very happy to win,” said Bello. “It was a tough (Catholic League playoff) loss to Ryan, but this win helped reenergize the team. We hope this will help us on Tuesday.”
Kweder lauded the two teammates that assisted on his tallies.
“Both of them we placed perfectly to put me in the position to score,” said Kweder. “One cross from Nick Bello was placed right on my head and another by (senior) Matt Drauschak was placed right at my feet, so I just executed what was planned in practice.
“Our number-one goal was to win the district championship from back in the off-season, so after we loss to Ryan, we went right back to work to reach states.”
Lansdale Catholic, which lost in the Catholic League quarterfinals, upended Philadelphia Academy Charter School, 3-0, in the city title. The Crusaders then dropped a 2-1 decision to New Hope-Solebury in a contest that determined seeding.
“We are all very excited to keep playing together,” said junior Sean Cole. “It was tough losing in the PCL, but we are all very happy and thrilled to continue to play together and hopefully rack up a few wins to get to the state championship.
“We have such a great team this year and love playing together, so we want to continue to do so and keep our season alive, especially for our seniors because it’s their last chance. It is going to take a lot of hard work, but I believe we are up to the challenge. We may not have gotten the results we wanted this year, but I can tell you that we never gave up and that will pay off.”
So the stage is set for November 6 as the Catholic League quad – all of them the top seeds in District 12 – try to move to the second round. Archbishop Wood plays District 3, two-seed Lower Dauphin 7:00 at the South Philadelphia Supersite. Roman Catholic takes on District 3, two-seed Wilson 7:00 at Northeast High School.
Devon Prep faces District 1 champion Faith Christian 5:00 at Upper Perkiomen High School. Lansdale Catholic meets District 3 champ Lancaster Mennonite 5:00 at Harrisburg’s Central Dauphin High School.
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)