Photos/Videos: Zack Beavers, Donna Eckert, Lennie Malmgren, Ryan Nix, David Picariello & Benji Rawson
By: John Knebels
PHILADELPHIA – For the fifth straight season, Saturday celebrates an uber-fun regular-season event in Philadelphia Catholic League boys’ soccer.
Known simply as “Play Day”, three games commence at Conwell-Egan High School while another three occur at Archbishop Ryan. Though 12 miles and a 22-minute drive apart (Thanks, Google Maps!), the all-day event typically results in a plethora of communication via text messaging, Twitter (now annoyingly referred to as “X”), and other forms of social media.
At Conwell-Egan, an 11 AM game between Devon Prep (0-2 in PCL) and Bonner-Prendergast (0-1) will be followed by Archbishop Carroll (0-2) versus Cardinal O’Hara (0-1) at 1:00 and then La Salle (2-0) against host Conwell-Egan (0-2) at 3:00.
The first game at Archbishop Ryan begins at 3 PM and slates Archbishop Wood (2-0) against St. Joseph’s Prep (0-1-1). A rematch of last year’s PCL final between Father Judge (2-0) and Archbishop Ryan (2-0) starts at 5:00. The evening concludes with Lansdale Catholic (1-1) taking on Roman Catholic (1-0-1).
For boys’ soccer zealots, nothing compares.
“It’s a great idea that we’ve adopted from our sisters in the PCL,” said Roman Catholic coach Ray DeStephanis. “They started the concept and we’ve embraced it. It’s beyond the perfect opportunity to devote a day to the unique experience that the Philadelphia Catholic League brings to high school soccer.
“For colleges scouts, coaches, fans, parents, and even players, just a golden day to absorb good, passionate soccer rivalries. I’m very happy we got on board.”
Heading into Play Day, the PCL had earlier played on September 8 and September 12. With two games in the books, four teams have emerged with 2-0 records.
Defending champion Archbishop Ryan picked up where they left off during their scintillating PCL late-season run that transformed a fifth-place finish into one of the league’s most memorable titles.
In front of their home fans, senior Mo Kaneh scored two goals in a 20-second span in the game’s 16th minute to jumpstart a 5-0 win over Conwell-Egan. In the second half, the Raiders received goals from sophomore Jack Stackhouse, senior Mike McCurry, and sophomore Dom Lewandoski.
“Egan was tough and continued to pressure but our goalkeeper (sophomore Naz Clark) made two nice saves in the second half to preserve the shutout,” said Ryan coach Ryan Haney. “We received nice contributions from the entire roster.”
Four days later, the Raiders engineered a facsimile. In a 4-0 win at Devon Prep, junior captain Peyton Barton opened the scoring on a nice feed from McCurry. Stackhouse doubled the lead after a pass from sophomore Jayden Perez. Koneh and Lewandowski added goals in the second half.
In a much-anticipated contest 5 PM Saturday, the Raiders host PCL runner-up Father Judge. Most of the players from Judge’s penalty-kick loss in the finals return.
After an impressive 5-1 win over Lansdale Catholic, the Crusaders needed heroics in double overtime to squash Conwell-Egan’s upset hopes.
Both teams traded goals during regulation. After a scoreless first overtime session, Judge senior Mike Browning passed to senior Abou Cherif, who ended the tense affair with a goal that elicited both joy and relief.
“Overtimes are unpredictable,” said Cherif. “It was just one of those days for the team, but all that matters is we got the ‘W.’ We learn from it and move on.”
Conwell-Egan left nothing on the field.
“I was really proud of the boys earlier this week and it’s always disappointing being on the losing end of a double OT loss,” Eagles coach Mike Rigney said. “Our boys played very well, but we have to move on and continue to put the work in and get ready for our next game against La Salle.”
La Salle overwhelmed both Devon Prep (4-0) and Cardinal O’Hara (7-0). Junior Mark Mazzoni scored twice in both victories and added one assist while junior Christian Backich (three goals) and junior Finn Murray combined for five goals and one assist.
“Top to bottom, our squad is working extremely hard day in and day out in practice,” said La Salle senior goalie Ryan Kalup, who notched both shutouts. “Our defensive success has been because of that hard work.”
Instead of defending a PCL title, La Salle has become a chaser – not a common role for a program that has seized four of the past six PCL titles and six crowns since 2011.
“We have always had the same mindset, defending champ or not,” Kalup said. “This group is a lot different than my freshman and sophomore year. We are extremely excited to show the PCL what we are about.”
With senior Logan Savage scoring two goals with respective assists from Brendan Welsh and Gavin Zachwieja, Archbishop Wood opened with a 3-1 win over visiting Archbishop Carroll.
Junior Joe Brandt settled in goal nicely while usual starter senior Julian Naumenko continues to improve from an injury.
“It was super important to pick up that win and get three points on the board,” said senior Enzo Petruzzelli, who added a penalty kick insurance tally. “Just getting that win gets all the nerves out and helps us roll into our next game with high energy.”
The Vikings did just that.
When Wood visited Bonner-Prendergast, goals by Savage, Petruzzelli (two assists), senior Matt Miller, freshman Owen Gaylord, junior Brian Shammo, and junior Emerson Kiss provided the Vikings with a 6-0 win.
After Roman Catholic sophomore Chris Swanson and St. Joseph’s Prep’s senior Connor Kryst traded goals, the two teams ultimately battled to a 1-1 double-overtime tie.
“You couldn’t ask for anything more for a Friday night PCL opener,” DeStephanis said. “Each team had their chances throughout 100 minutes of high-level soccer.
“Speaking for us, the effort was there, but we need to finish our opportunities down deep. We had more than enough chances to win the match in regulation and we couldn’t put it away. That’s a little frustrating but it’s also early in and that’ll come around. But credit (SJP coach Joe Coyle) and his boys. They’re stout and kept charging the entire way.”
The two teams’ follow-up game twisted in different directions. While the Cahillites blanked host Archbishop Carroll, 2-0, the Hawks dropped a 4-1 decision at Lansdale Catholic.
For the Crusaders, the victory over SJP soothed some of the disappointment in a 5-1 PCL opening loss at Father Judge.
“That loss was really disappointing for two reasons,” said Lansdale Catholic coach Casey Farrell. “One, we know that we are better than that result and, two, we knew in our hearts that the final score didn't tell the story of the game. So to follow that with a game against the always-formidable St. Joe's Prep, we all felt that it was important to earn back some respect from people who may have seen that Judge score and pegged us for a pushover. The boys came into that game determined to get the win and they turned up the heat early, scoring just five minutes into the match."
Four different Crusaders contributed goals. Senior Anthony Lewis scored five minutes in. The contest stayed close before junior Nikhil Cyriac and senior Tommy Ellis scored six minutes apart midway through the second half. Junior Chase Anderson concluded the scoring.
“Tons of credit to St. Joe's Prep for settling in and evening up the score before halftime,” Farrell said. “They competed extremely hard for 80 minutes and made life difficult for us. In the end, though, I was very proud of our team for making the necessary adjustments and not letting the moment consume them. They kept the pressure up and never took their foot off the gas, and that's what ultimately led to more and more goal-scoring opportunities.”
Farrell appreciated effort from all individuals, particularly from senior captains Ellis and Gianluca D'Alterio.
“They had their fingerprints all over the victory,” Farrell said. “D'Alterio facilitated the lion's share of our offensive chances, and Ellis won almost every head-ball out of the air while assisting our first goal and scoring our third. Strong game from both of those young men.”
*** The PCL opener between visiting Bonner-Prendergast and Cardinal O’Hara was postponed because of inclement weather and has been rescheduled for 6:00 on September 25.
(Contact John Knebels at email@example.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