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BOYS SOCCER: PCL Soccer Showcase Ignites Early Season Highlights

By John Knebels, 09/22/22, 1:45PM EDT


Photos/Videos: Donna Eckert, Kathy Leister, Lou Rabito, Patty Morgan, Lennie Malmgren & Rachel Macauley

By: John Knebels

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Catholic League sure knows how to throw a party. In fact, it takes about 34 miles to fit everybody in.

On September 17, each of the 12 teams participated in a PCL Showcase morning into late afternoon. Three games took place on Father Judge’s home turf at RAMP Playground while a trio simultaneously occurred at Cardinal O’Hara High School.

Of the six games, two came down to an exciting finish.

In the second overtime, junior Abu Cherif scored his second goal of the game to lift Father Judge past Archbishop Ryan, 2-1. After scoring on a header 15 minutes into the game, Cherif ended the tense affair when junior classmate Kevin Castro forced a turnover, and after splitting two defenders, Cherif buried a low show into the short corner.

Senior Jimmy Shelton (first half) and junior Jimmy Shensky (second half and overtime) shared goaltending duties.  

“Both goals were things we focus on during trainings,” said Cherif. “Coach (John Dunlop) always tell us to put the ball in a dangerous place and make sure we have runners, and that’s what we did for the first goal. The second goal was the same thing. We applied pressure as a team, and when we win the ball, we go straight to the goal.”

The only more important goal of Cherif’s career came in a victory over Lansdale Catholic in last year’s PCL semifinal, when his tally with eight minutes left in regulation helped capture a 1-0 win that sent Father Judge to the league final.

This one, however, was more dramatic.

“Scoring an overtime goal is probably one of the greatest feelings, especially that goal because we didn’t play our best game,” said Cherif. “This year is not just any year. It is a statement year for us. Everyone on the team is working for the same outcome after the loss in the championship.”

Father Judge vs. Archbishop Ryan - PSD Highlights by Patty Morgan

The aforementioned Dunlop said the entire event went well.

“Ramp Field was crowded,” said Dunlop. ”The play was back and forth throughout the second, with both keepers making some quality saves. Fans of the six teams got to see some good quality soccer. It was a playoff atmosphere.”   

Archbishop Ryan’s only goal was scored by senior Jack Dreibelbis with 36 seconds left in the first half.

Later, Raiders coach Ryan Haney issued a challenge to his troops.

“This game will define how this season,” said Haney. “We will see how we respond.”

Archbishop Ryan vs. Archbishop Carroll - PSD Highlights by Rachel Macauley

So far, so good. Three days later, the Raiders bounced back with a 5-0 win over Archbishop Carroll.

On Friday, Ryan will visit undefeated Roman Catholic. Before blanking Bonner-Prendergast on Tuesday, the Cahillites turned in a sensational effort against St. Joseph’s Prep in the Showcase, defeating the Hawks, 3-1.

“It felt like a playoff game,” said Roman senior Ben Macleod. “We treat every game like it’s the playoffs. But when we play teams like Prep, you have to bring your A-game.

“We felt good about our offense on Saturday, especially during the first half. We haven’t been fully healthy and honestly; we still aren’t. But as we get pieces back in play, we can throw different looks out on the field, and I think for the first time this year it came together on Saturday.”

The Prep was able to rebound with a 2-0 win over Cardinal O’Hara. Freshman Tim Comey and sophomore Sayer McLaughlin scored for the Hawks. Senior goalies Coleman Monahan and Luca Ermilio both stood tall in the cage.

“Nice win,” said Prep coach Joe Coyle. “It’s great to see all 20 players contributing. We have a nice balance of players through all four grades and we will have to rely on all 20 to be successful this season.”

St. Joseph's Prep vs. Cardinal O'Hara Highlights by Lennie Malmgren

Behind a stiff defense, lights-out goaltending, and a red-hot scorer, Archbishop Wood is coming off a pair of shutouts and has raised its record to 3-1. The Vikings’ lone defeat was a 2-1 overtime loss to defending champion La Salle in the league opener.

On Saturday, the Vikings dispatched Lansdale Catholic, 2-0. On Tuesday, they defeated previously undefeated Father Judge, 1-0. All three composite goals were supplied by junior Enzo Petruzzelli.

“I’m thrilled the way the season has started for us,” said Petruzzelli, who also scored twice in Wood’s district final win last year. “It was great to play such a key role against LC, who always gives us a tough game.”

Against visiting Father Judge, senior Chris Branchide assisted Petruzzelli for the game’s only goal with 25 minutes left in regulation while the defense of junior Albert Funk, senior Guiseppe Propato, junior Nick Striano, and senior Cole Costello aided junior goalie Julian Naumenko’s third straight shutout.

Archbishop Wood vs. Father Judge Highlights - PSD Highlights by Donna Eckert

“We knew this was a very important game,” said Petruzzelli. “The team came out with energy and was ready to play. The entire game was a tough battle and everyone knew it was going to be decided by one goal.”

Naumenko seems to thrive in high pressure situations.

“Keeping my composure has always been a key to my game,” said Naumenko. “It is a lot of pressure when your team is up late and sitting back. One slip up between the defense and the game turns into the hands of the goalkeeper.

“For some, goalkeeping is just keeping the ball out of the net. Keeping the ball out of the net is important, but communicating with your team can decide wins and losses.”

Lansdale Catholic dropped a 2-0 decision to Archbishop Wood on Saturday. But as they so often do, the resilient Crusaders regained their footing by edging Conwell-Egan, one of their Class 2A opponents, in two overtimes, 3-2, on junior Gianluca D’Alterio’s second goal of the game. He also assisted on another.

Crusaders coach Casey Farrell lauded junior goalie Danny Shelak, who only allowed two penalty kicks.

“He controlled the box for us all game long,” said Farrell. “The two PKs were well struck and would have been extremely difficult for any keeper to save. He dominated the air and kept us in the game as we fought back.

“This win helped us take one more step towards a district and state playoff berth, which is always a goal of ours. We gained some confidence after starting off the season with very difficult opponents and continually coming up just short. We needed to remind ourselves both what it takes to win and the resulting feeling.”

While LC moved to 2-2, Conwell-Egan fell to 1-2-1. The Eagles had overwhelmed Bonner-Prendergast for their first PCL win on Saturday.

“The boys are feeling confident,” said C-E coach Mike Rigney. “We got back to playing our team game (against Bonner-Prendergast) and we had great results. Our captains – senior Dillon Farrell and junior Noah Kiesewetter – led the boys after a disappointing result earlier in the week against Roman. We have been without two key starting players to begin this year’s season.”

Kiesewetter agreed with his coach.

“It was very important to pick up that win against Bonner,” said Kiesewetter. “It gave us confidence that we need and showed our team that our training is paying off and we can compete with any team in the PCL. I have big expectations for this year and us going far.”

Devon Prep notched a 3-2 victory over Cardinal O’Hara on Saturday before losing to La Salle on Tuesday. 

“The win was crucial for our season and our team,” said junior Nick Walton. “After some tough losses, it helped us get back on our feet and move forward. All the different things we have been working on are all starting to come together.”

La Salle raised its record to 4-0 with convincing wins over Archbishop Carroll and Devon Prep. Even when favored in a match, the defending champions do not change their start-to-finish approach. 

“Coach McCaff (Tom McCaffery) always says to always respect the other team,” said junior goalie Ryan Kalup. “It is why I believe we started off hot and got the three points. We also had a lot of play this week, so that really is helping us prepare for some of the games later in the season.”

In a balanced attack against Carroll, goals were scored by senior Seth Michalak, sophomore Joey Kmetz, sophomore Mark Mazzoni, senior Ben Stevens, junior Dom Lupinacci, and freshman Shea Crawford.

Among those who did not find the net but proved instrumental in the win was CJ Massella. The junior was asked to assess the difference in intensity when playing in a tight contest as opposed to one firmly in hand.

“Obviously, there is more intensity in overtime compared to games that aren’t as close,” said Massella. “As a team, we are just trying to find consistency in our play all the time, no matter who we play.”

No regular season game was more intense than La Salle’s opener, when Massella scored his first-ever overtime game winner to lift the Explorers past Archbishop Wood, 2-1.

#15 Colin (CJ) Massella - PSD Photo by Lou Rabito

“(Senior) Dylan Marco played a free kick and Wood headed it out,” said Massella. “Then (junior) Matt Siravo played the ball to (senior) Nick White, who chipped it in to me. The goalie went one way and I was able to tuck it in the far post. I really didn’t think. I just reacted, and the goalie went one way and I read him.

“It was a great feeling for our team to win in overtime. Wood played great against us. To be able to finish in OT helped our team get rolling into a new season, and got us a big win in the PCL.”

After Massella’s game winner, teammate Kalup raced in from his cage to join the celebration.

“Wood is a very strong and talented team, so going to an overtime situation is definitely nerve wracking,” said Kalup. “However, with how hard we get at it in practices, it helps relieve that anxiety of going into a stressful situation.

“After CJ slotted the game winner, I was just excited, it was a great feeling and an amazing match, especially for only being game one. It definitely felt great to start out with a hard fought win and three points to our name.”

Arguably the PCL’s most hungry squad is Cardinal O’Hara, which is still looking for its first league win despite improved play. Before dropping a 2-0 decision to St. Joseph’s Prep on Tuesday, the Lions were edged by Devon Prep, 3-2, in the Showcase. Junior Ziddy Stewart scored both O’Hara goals.

“In my opinion, I think we were the better team,” said O’Hara senior Luca Galieti. “We were able to create more opportunities. Unfortunately, we had some trouble getting shots off, and linking up with one another in the final third. With that being said, we still managed to get two goals.

“On the defensive side of the ball, we also played well. We were able to win the ball in the midfield as well as shut down almost all of their balls in behind. Overall they weren’t able to create many opportunities, but they definitely capitalized on ones they had.”

O’Hara senior Kyle Coleman was also encouraged.

“We came out strong in the first half scoring in the first 10 minutes of play and leading 1-0 in the half,” said Coleman. “Then when they tied it, we didn’t lose confidence. We went right down the field and scored again minutes later. It was a back and forth game all the way to the end. We played strong and physical and two long shots lost us the game, but there’s not much you can do on that.

“We had a lot of opportunities but couldn’t capitalize on them. Everyone didn’t like how this outcome went, but it’s only going to make us stronger throughout the season to finish games and playing smart with a lead.”

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