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BOYS SOCCER: Upset Victories, Ties For First & Playoff Clinchers Compile This Week’s Catholic League Round-Up

By John Knebels - Photos/Videos: Kathy Leister, Peter Delpo, Lennie Malmgren, 10/14/21, 9:15AM EDT


Photos/Videos: Kathy Leister, Peter Delpo, Lennie Malmgren & Jimmy Stinsman

By: John Knebels

PHILADELPHIA –  In the larger picture, maybe it will only amount to an upset victory. But regardless of what happens moving forward, it will always represent significance for Lansdale Catholic.

When the Crusaders left their home field last Friday after stunning previously undefeated La Salle, 3-0, they celebrated as though they had just won a Catholic League championship. Well, maybe not quite that much, but it was close.

“This win was definitely one of the most memorable of my high school career, and I am so grateful we were able to do it on our home field,” said LC senior Alex Kulp. “We had a lot of fans there to cheer us on, and the atmosphere was electric. It was such a fun game to play in.”

LC’s victory severed La Salle’s 22-game Catholic League winning streak dating back to September 20, 2019. Who was the culprit that day? Yep. Lansdale Catholic, which blanked the eventual league champion Explorers, 2-0.

La Salle had not surrendered more than two goals since beating Archbishop Ryan, 4-3, on October 23, 2019. The Explorers have allowed three goals or more only three times since September 26, 2018, when they fell to eventual champion Archbishop Wood, 4-0.

“When we scored our first goal in the third minute, that really gave the team confidence that we could pull off the upset,” said Lansdale Catholic coach Casey Farrell. “We all felt great about our chances before the game. We prepared for a rock fight basically and knew it was going to be physical and hard fought. But that first goal let us exhale a little and find a groove. We moved the ball great. Played to our strengths and most importantly took advantage of the scoring opportunities when they were presented to us.

“It may be my favorite win in my three seasons as head coach honestly. We still had guys hurt. A few were coming off of illness and weren’t 100%. But this game always means more because of how close the two schools are. We even had two sets of brothers on opposite teams. Pat Cole, a freshman on our team, his brother is the senior captain Joe Cole on La Salle. And our sophomore player Matt Schaefer’s brother is also a senior for La Salle.”

Gavin Fanelli scores to seal Lansdale Catholic's 3-0 victory vs. La Salle - Video courtesy of Jennifer Cooney.

Entering the game with a 2-6 record, Lansdale Catholic had dropped five of its last six, though two of them were by one goal. Toppling a La Salle squad that remains hopeful to capture the Catholic League regular season title was, to be kind, highly unlikely.

More than any sport, however, soccer is so unpredictable because it is so difficult to score goals. Once an underdog seizes a lead as did Lansdale Catholic on Will Kelly’s tally, the opposition might start feeling the pressure as the contest continues.

So when junior Kam Schmidt doubled LC’s advantage to 2-0 near the midway point of the second half, cell phones throughout Montgomery County buzzed. When junior Gavin Fanelli popped one home with 10 minutes remaining, the only thing left was securing a shutout for Lansdale Catholic sophomore goalie Danny Shelak.

“This win probably ranks second in my high school career, the first being when we beat La Salle my sophomore year for the first time in seven years,” said senior co-captain Eric Fernandez, who notched two assists. “Overall it was a really fun game and I enjoyed being on the field and playing in front of a large crowd.

“When Will Kelly scored the first goal, I was expecting La Salle to come back at us with everything, but we held our own and didn’t let them play the way they usually do. After the second goal I knew that we were going to win. It made me really happy to be part of the team. We have been struggling this season and with a win like this, it really boosts mine and the team’s confidence on what we can achieve.”

La Salle coach Tom McCaffery classily saluted the Crusaders in defeat.

“LC played a really nice game,” said McCaffery. “They had tremendous energy, finished really well when they created chances, and their goalie really controlled the box. I think only time will tell if we learn lessons from this loss as a team and correct some things moving forward. Hopefully these lessons will help us to be successful when it matters most in the playoffs.”

As for the Crusaders, they double downed on their improvement by blanking Devon Prep on Tuesday, 3-0. Fernandez propelled the offense by netting a hat trick. Not only did the victory clinch a Catholic League playoff spot, it kept the Crusaders alive for a PIAA Class 2A district bid. A loss would have eliminated any chance for states.

“We were all aware of how big of a game this was for us,” said Farrell. “We had a let down last year not representing District 12 in states for the first time in something like a decade and it came at the hands of Devon Prep. So I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a bit of a revenge game.

“We felt great after our win against La Salle last week and we knew if we wanted any sort of momentum headed into a potential postseason run, we needed to finish the last week strong.”

St. Joseph’s Prep placed itself in shape for a share of the regular-season crown with a 5-2 win over Roman Catholic and a 1-1 tie with La Salle.

Though it’s not a surprise any time one of the PCL’s top six teams beat anyone, scoring five goals against a team as strong as the Cahillites poses as an anomaly.

“It was a fun night,” said Prep coach Joe Coyle. “The fortitude of this team continues to impress me. Over the summer we lost two returning starters to academy soccer. Over the last two months we lost two senior captains to season ending injuries. We have lost four other starters to other injuries. And tonight we played one of the top teams in the PCL and the players put together an impressive performance in every phase of the game. I’m very proud of these young men and the obstacles they continue to navigate.”

Senior Cole McCartney scored a hat trick and senior Julian Faust added two goals. Junior Jerry Poslusny and senior Jack Salvo played particularly well for the Hawks.

Heading into the final game of the regular season, the Prep, La Salle, and Archbishop Wood are tied at 8-1-1. The Prep will host fourth-place Father Judge (7-2-1), La Salle will visit Archbishop Carroll (1-8-1), and Archbishop Wood will host Devon Prep (4-6).   

St. Joseph's Prep vs. La Salle Game Highlights: PSD Video by Lennie Malmgren:

Cole McCartney scores 1 of his 3 goals off a PK in SJPrep’s 5-2 win vs. Roman - Video Jimmy Stinsman

Roman Catholic bounced back from the ultra-rare lopsided defeat by edging Archbishop Ryan, 1-0, on Tuesday. Junior Alex Saldanha’s goal – assisted by junior Nick Lachawiec – with 2:35 remaining supplied an enormously important tally.

The Cahillites will close with a home match against Conwell-Egan while the Raiders finish by hosting Cardinal O’Hara.

“It was a classic PCL match,” said Roman Catholic coach Ray DeStephanis. “Decent opportunities throughout the match on both ends. We were getting some good combination touches and in the end it came down to the hard work Alex has been giving us all year. Nick got a head on the service from Petey Crespo and Alex was just really determined to make it count. 

“I’m really happy for the guys. It’s been a rough stretch here lately and credit to Ryan – that was a heck of a match. It does feel good to look at the guys smiling and having some fun after a win like that as opposed to a lopsided result like a Friday night. That’s what every coach wants to see. It’s about the team.” 

Roman Catholic Defeats Archbishop Ryan 1-0 off a goal from Alex Saldanha - PSD Video by Kathy Leister

At 4-6, Devon Prep is playoff bound after stopping Bonner-Prendergast and Archbishop Carroll. 

“It was a huge deal for us,” said Devon Prep senior Chris Walton. “Needing to win to make the playoffs was in the back of our mind for the game, but our main focus was just winning the game and we got the job done. We’re super excited for the playoffs.”

The 10th and final playoff spot remains vacant, but Archbishop Carroll controls its own destiny thanks to a 1-0 victory over Bonner-Prendergast highlighted by senior Grant Grube’s 30-foot laser late in the closing minutes of the first half.

After battling Cardinal O’Hara (0-9-1) to a scoreless tie on Wednesday, Archbishop Carroll (1-8-1) is in 10th place with one game left versus La Salle. Carroll would clinch 10th with a win over La Salle or a loss by Bonner Prendergast (1-9) against Lansdale Catholic. If Carroll loses and B-P defeats LC, then B-P grabs the 10th spot.

“Our attacking speed created problems,” said Carroll coach Kendall Welkes. “I very happy for my seniors who are now in position to hopefully play in the playoffs.”

Cardinal O'Hara and Archbishop Carroll's match-up ended scoreless after 2 OT's - Highlights by Lennie Malmgren

(Contact John Knebels at or on Twitter @johnknebels.)