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BOYS SOCCER: Coaching Milestone, Overtimes and Shutouts Headline PCL Boys’ Soccer

By John Knebels Photos: Zack Beavers, Lennie Malmgren, 10/07/22, 11:15AM EDT


Photos/Videos: Zack Beavers, Lennie Malmgren

By: John Knebels

PHILADELPHIA – Only one-third of the regular season beckons. Four teams have dominated. Three continue to joust for mid-standing position. The remaining five hope to at least make the playoffs.

In other words, things are totally normal in Catholic League boys’ soccer.

As for recent action . . .

At 7-0-1, Roman Catholic fought La Salle to a scoreless tie and then edged host Lansdale Catholic, 4-3. The latter provided Roman coach Ray DeStephanis with his 150th career victory.

In the former, the entire two-overtime contest took place in a game-long evening rainstorm.

“Just another typical Friday night in the Catholic League I guess you can say,” said DeStephanis. “As a coach or player, you live for these type matches. We knew weather could be an issue, but we prepare and adjust as needed. When it’s all said and done, you bookmark the plays you think could’ve or should’ve made a difference, and you look at it hard. We look at everything, though, every minute of every match. You’d be surprised what you see.

“We made some adjustments because of a yellow card in the back, and that, coupled with some slippery conditions, we didn’t want to expose the back to any further trouble with an errant slip. As a whole, the entire back line were just short of phenomenal, led by our keeper Sean Brennan’s athleticism and command of the box.”

The win over Lansdale Catholic was a back-and-forth affair. 

“Lansdale Catholic has always proven to be a tough opponent for us,” said DeStephanis. “For them to battle us like they did comes as no surprise to me or anyone on my staff.

“If you like exciting soccer, today was your day. It almost came down to whoever possessed the ball last. Up and down the field. Fun to watch; nerve wracking to coach.”

Of his 150 wins, 109 have come at the expense of a Catholic League opponent.

“I  didn’t make mention of it to the team or coaches,” said DeStephanis. “It’s great, don’t get me wrong. But I’m looking forward to 156 or so . . .

“Seriously, that total is a tribute to all that’s worn the purple and gold and a lot of loyal staff that’s been here with me for most of that time. It’s another game in the books and we have another to prepare for on Friday.”

Father Judge (7-1) took care of business on the road, edging Lansdale Catholic, 2-1, and Conwell-Egan, 1-0, in double overtime. The Crusaders have allowed only four goals thus far.

In the win over LC, senior Mike McCusker accounted for both goals. Sophomores Gavin Dunlop and Juan Ceciliano each picked up solo assists.

“Lansdale is a good team,” said Father Judge coach John Dunlop. “Always plays us tough at home; probably my least favorite place to play in 20 years. You never feel you have control of the game for 80 minutes.

“First half, we missed a penalty kick and finished 0-0. We changed our system in the second half to clean some things up and it helped us create some more scoring opportunities. We picked up two quick goals. Our defense was strong again – continued to keep opponents off the scoreboard until the final minute to secure the win.”

Father Judge notched two recent PCL victories against Lansdale Catholic and Conwell-Egan - PSD Photo by Donna Eckert

Against Conwell-Egan, senior Hugh Nungesser ended the contest in dramatic fashion, head-balling Dunlop’s free kick into the cage with seven minutes remaining in the second overtime.

“To be able to get my first overtime goal was incredible,” said Nungesser. “The feeling is indescribable. Seeing it go in and watching the bench sprint to the corner with me was a moment I’ll never forget.”

Archbishop Wood (6-1) increased its winning streak to six with a 4-0 win at Devon Prep. The Vikings have outscored their opponent by a collective 17-1 during that period.

Logan Pietrzak scored twice for Wood, with Logan Savage and junior Enzo Petruzzelli adding one goal apiece. Junior goalie Julian Naumenko issued his fifth shutout in six games.

Albert Funk and Cole Costello are playing well in the back, and Julian Naumenko is doing a good job keeping balls out of the net,” said Wood coach Hugh Kelly. “Our midfield is also playing well right now. Logan Pietrzak and Chris Branchide are doing a great job in the middle field. They are involved in the scoring and distributing the ball.”

Despite new players on defense, the Vikings continue to thrive.

Archbishop Wood is on a 6-game win-streak - PSD Photo by Donna Eckert

“They have been moved around from their normal positions,” said Kelly. “We graduated our whole back line last year, so it’s been a process.” 

La Salle (6-1-1) shook off a rare two-game winless streak by defeating host Archbishop Ryan, 2-1, behind two goals by senior Seth Michalak. The two-time defending champion Explorers previously had lost to Father Judge, 2-1, and battled Roman Catholic to a scoreless tie.

Last year, the Explorers endured a similar chapter. After an 8-0 start, they lost to Lansdale Catholic and tied St. Joseph’s Prep in successive games. Then they ran the table to yet another league title.

“The win last night was very important,” said La Salle junior goalie Ryan Kalup. “Not only did we need the three points, but we needed to get some energy as we start preparing for the playoffs.”

A couple days earlier, La Salle coach Tom McCaffery was asked about how the rainy weather had influenced the Explorers’ scoreless bout with Roman Catholic that was played at Archbishop Ryan High School.

“I don't think the weather had an effect on the match at all,” said McCaffery. “The field held up great and was in really good condition, and I didn't see any real issues with footing or the ball doing crazy things.

“I think it's important to look for quality play in a draw like Friday night. I thought we handled the flighted ball well throughout the match, and offensively we were able to generate quality chances. If we are fortunate enough to see them again down the road, I hope our guys are more clinical with their chances so that we have a better result.”

Archbishop Ryan (4-3-1) had been searching for its third straight win. The Raiders had defeated St. Joseph’s Prep, 3-1, for their first PCL winning streak of the season.

“We needed that win Friday,” said Ryan senior goalie Joey Phillips. “This season has been up and down for us, but when we play together as one unit, we win games.

“I believe that we will win the PCL this year. We have a strong and older team and when we play together and pick each other up, I believe we’re tough to beat. Beating Prep this Friday gave us hope and some confidence.”

One of Ryan's three goals on a rainy Friday night bout against St. Joseph's Prep - PSD Video by Zack Beavers

St. Joseph’s Prep broke a three-game losing streak with a 7-0 win over Devon Prep (1-7). The Hawks are now tied with Lansdale Catholic for sixth place with a 4-4 mark.

“This win was absolutely huge for us because we had a little bit of a cold stretch,” said Prep senior goalie Coleman Monahan. “But this win has put the team back on the right path. We have all the confidence in the world going forward.”

Although senior Brock Harris and junior Connor Kryst contributed mightily with two goals apiece, sophomore teammate Matt Reeves did them one better by tallying his first high school hat trick.

“We had a practice the day before and we talked about the importance of the game and how we have to continue to work to move up in the standings,” said Reeves. “It was a must-win game. 

“I had just scored my second goal and I got another opportunity on goal so when that happened, I was pretty surprised. I’ve just returned from injury, so it was a good way to come back. It felt good to get back and contribute. My teammates were pumped after that, and we kept the offense going.”

Cardinal O’Hara notched its first win since 2020 and stopped a seven-game losing streak by nipping host Bonner-Prendergast, 2-1. Junior Mike Foster and freshman Gavin McLain supplied the offense.

“It was a huge win for us,” said O’Hara senior Kyle Coleman. “After the close games we had with some of these teams, it finally felt good for us to get a win to bring our confidence up.

“Going into the second half of the season will be big for us, but for right now, it feels good. But we know that we need to put in the work and focus on the next game.”

O’Hara senior Luca Galieti agrees.

“Big win,” said Galieti. “We’ve been due for one for a while now. On top of that, it puts us closer in contention to get into the postseason.

“The win was nice, but as of right now, I think the team is just focused on the next three games.”

Cardinal O'Hara vs. Bonner-Prendergast - PSD Game Highlights by Lennie Malmgren

Archbishop Carroll has won two of its last three games.

"This season has been a lot of fun and challenging at the same time," said coach Kyle Grizzard. "We are a young team this year with only one graduating senior. Coming off a one-win season last year, most teams counted us out before the game even started. Although we haven't won a lot of games, we've given teams a challenge on the pitch.

"We've been playing our best soccer of the year, winning three of our last four games, including two PCL wins. Jack Gallagher, our junior striker, has scored six goals in those three wins. Our sophomore center back, Thomas Malloy, has been as solid as they come as the last line of defense in front of the stellar play of our junior goalie, Steven Finley, who's only played the position for two months and has three shutouts on the season.

"It's going to be an interesting last few weeks, and I'm excited to see what these boys can do."

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