By: John Knebels
Photos/Videos: James Beaver, Kathy Leister, Kevin Murphy & Donna Eckert
PHILADELPHIA – It’s been said countless times, so what’s one more?
There is nothing like Catholic League soccer.
On October 23 at Trifecta Sporting Club in Trevose, the Catholic League boys’ “Final Four” will take place for the right to fight for the league championship October 26 at Northeast Philadelphia’s James Ramp Memorial Recreation Center. If the doubleheader even comes close to imitating the quarterfinals on October 18, it would be well worth the price of admission.
At 5:00, top-seed La Salle faces seven-seed Archbishop Ryan. Shortly afterward, three-seed Roman Catholic takes on five-seed and defending champion Archbishop Wood.
La Salle junior Brandon Curran #24 notched a hat trick in quarterfinal victory vs. Conwell-Egan - PSD Photo by James Beaver
La Salle sophomore Sean Jennings #16 also notched a hat trick in the Explorer's 8-1 win - PSD Photo by James Beaver
La Salle was the only winning playoff team able to relax as the final minutes ticked off the clock. The Explorers overwhelmed visiting Conwell-Egan, 8-1, aided by junior Brandon Curran’s three-goal hat trick and another by sophomore Sean Jennings.
“This time of year, I think you have to play the full 80 minutes,” said La Salle coach Tom McCaffery. “Teams are very good, and the second you let up, these teams will take advantage.
“We saw that when (Conwell-Egan) scored (to cut its deficit to 2-1) and then had another clear opportunity towards the end of the first half. Ultimately, you have to give every opponent your best effort, or else you will be out."
“The team had just seen Ryan upset Father Judge, and we knew that Ryan’s win would fire up Conwell Egan,” said Curran. “Knowing this, we got ready long before the game and have been practicing hard when we would normally have off days to get the team fired up and ready for the playoff season. The whole team has brought the intensity to a new level for the playoff season.”
Curran was referring to Archbishop Ryan’s stunning 1-0 win at two-seed Father Judge – a game played a day earlier (October 17) because of a Father Judge scheduling conflict. As a seventh seed, the Raiders had needed a 3-2, pre-quarterfinal win over 10-seed Cardinal O’Hara to advance.
Against the rival Crusaders, with about 15 minutes remaining in the first half, Ryan freshman Tim Cliggett scored off an assist from junior Sidiki Fofana.
Freshman goalie Joey Phillips, who has played every minute of the season, and his defense were flawless down the stretch.
“This game was extremely important to us because we all really wanted to win, especially against Judge,” said Ryan senior center midfielder Nick Marchesano.
“We all give 100 percent and are working for the same goal – to win the whole thing.”
Roman Catholic, trying to find a way to reach the Catholic League final for a sixth straight season, received a major scare from six-seed St. Joseph’s Prep. Goals by Prep senior Kane Ritchie and Roman junior Matt Harrell ultimately sent the contest into penalty kicks, where both teams scored on their initial four shots.
Roman senior Tom Bagnell slid a shot into the cage for a fifth successful penalty kick, leaving Roman senior goalie Kevin Tobin with a chance to win the game with a save.
That Tobin did, diving to his right with a cat-like instinct before gleefully tapping the ground with his fist several times in a combination of joy and relief. As his teammates raced toward him in unison to celebrate, Tobin was initially confused.
“I didn’t even know it was the last shot until I saw everyone running towards me, but it was a really cool moment for me,” said Tobin. “I was worried about saving just one. It is a great feeling knowing that I can come up big for my team.”
Tobin was amused when asked if he had “guessed right” on the clinching save.
“It’s not like we’re eight years old anymore where you can just react to the shot,” said Tobin. “I just picked a way to dive and just went for it.”
Archbishop Wood’s victory over four-seed Lansdale Catholic also necessitated an extra session – two, actually. That’s when senior Ryan Morgan passed to junior Shane Collier, who netted the game winner in double overtime.
“(Sophomore) Braedon Kehan played me a great ball down the line,” said Morgan. “I cut the defender to my right and dribbled it into the box. I could hear Shane calling my name, so I knew he was open. I played him the ball and he took a fake shot with his right, then cut to this left.
“I watched as he buried the ball in the side netting. It was a great feeling after 100-plus minutes of soccer. Now we have to come out and be ready for Roman on Wednesday night.”
Roman has been in the Final Four seven straight seasons, with La Salle (six) and Wood (4) not far behind. Ryan is making its first appearance in seven years.
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)
Tag(s): Home Schools Philadelphia Catholic Soccer Boys Soccer Philadelphia Catholic League Arch. Carroll Boys Soccer Arch. Ryan Boys Soccer Arch. Wood Boys Soccer Bishop McDevitt Boys Soccer Bonner & Prendie Boys Soccer Cardinal O'Hara Boys Soccer Conwell-Egan Boys Soccer Father Judge Soccer La Salle Soccer Lansdale Cath. Boys Soccer Neumann/Goretti Boys Socce Roman Catholic Soccer Saint Joseph's Prep Soccer Devon Prep