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BOYS SOCCER: With One Week To Go, Lots Could Still Happen Before PCL Playoffs

By John Knebels Photos: Donna Eckert & David Picariello, 10/10/23, 10:45AM EDT


Photos/Videos: Zack Beavers, Donna Eckert, David Picariello, Krystal Williams

By: John Knebels

PHILADELPHIA – One team is undefeated. Three are tied for second. The next three are separated by a half game. The following four remain mathematically alive for the eighth and final playoff spot. And there are only two games left in the regular season.

Welcome to the always talented, always interesting, always exciting world of Philadelphia Catholic League boys’ soccer.

Father Judge has outscored six of the current playoff teams by 17-5. Over the past three regular seasons, the Crusaders have amassed a sterling record of 27-3-1 and carry a 16-game winning streak into its final two games against Devon Prep and St. Joseph’s Prep.

“In some ways it may be impressive to secure first place, but we knew we would be here with all the hard work throughout these past weeks,” Judge junior Gavin Dunlop said. “Definitely can say all the teams have something different to bring to the table and it’s sometimes a slow start to adjust to the play. Playoff seeding could really go any way. I think there’s gonna be some upsets that are gonna surprise the league.”

Archbishop Ryan has won five straight. At 7-2, the Raiders are tied for second with two other teams, and they face one of them – Archbishop Wood – on Tuesday.

What may turn out to be one of the season’s most important goals occurred on September 29 when sophomore Jack Stackhouse scored in overtime to defeat Roman Catholic, 2-1.  

“When (senior) Mike McCurry took the corner, I had that feeling that this was the last play of the game, but I didn’t think I would be the one to end it,” Stackhouse said. “It’s always a great feeling when you score a game winner, especially against a team that Ryan has always been close rivals with. Scoring in front of all your friends and family just makes it so much better.”

The Raiders won another close contest four nights later. Trailing St. Joseph’s Prep, 1-0, sophomore Ethan Delgado took a feed from junior Shawn Dixon and tied the game with five minutes left. Three minutes later, senior Frank Monaco scored off a corner feed from Delgado. A subsequent 3-0 victory at Lansdale Catholic increased Ryan’s streak to five.

Also at 7-2, Archbishop Wood finishes with away games at Archbishop Ryan and La Salle. The Vikings notched their third straight victory, 1-0 over visiting Conwell-Egan, this past Sunday – a makeup from a previous weather-related cancellation.

Early in the second half, sophomore Brendan Welsh dished a perfect corner kick, and senior Adrian Guerrero headed the ball home for what turned out to be the game winner.

“The game was pretty 50/50,” Guerrero said. “I remember thinking about how we practiced our corners in practice and just executed on it. The goal gave us all the momentum going forward, and we carried the energy and momentum the goal gave us until the final whistle.”

Unfortunately for those in attendance who root for the Philadelphia Eagles, the game began at 4:00 – simultaneous with the Eagles’ start against the Los Angeles Rams.

Among those not particularly pleased with the schedule conflict was Guerrero.

“It definitely felt different playing on Sunday, especially with the Eagles playing,” said Guerrero, who said he received periodic scoring updates from some of the players on the bench. “But like any game, you have to walk on the field focused and ready to play. The team always comes first.”

Guerrero arrived home about the middle of the fourth quarter just in time to see the Eagles kick a game-clinching field goal and an ultimate 23-14 victory. Quite a day for Wood soccer/Philadelphia Eagles zealots.

Archbishop Wood senior Adrian Guerrero scores to secure the 1-0 victory vs. CEC - PSD Video by Donna Eckert

“Today’s todays win might have been the most important one yet,” Wood senior Enzo Petruzzelli said. “With so many teams neck and neck in the playoff race for seeding, this game meant a little more than just a better playoff spot because of what happened last year (two-seed Wood’s shocking 1-0 loss to seven-seed Conwell-Egan in the quarterfinals). It was great to come out on top, and with two games left against Ryan and La Salle, we know we’re going to have to play with the intensity we played with against Egan.”

Yet another 7-2 squad, La Salle, would clinch second place with home wins over Roman Catholic and Archbishop Wood. The Explorers have only surrendered six goals in their nine PCL games.

Senior goalie Ryan Kalup not only etched his fifth PCL shutout in Friday’s 2-0 win at St. Joseph’s Prep, but the senior goalie collected a rare assist (a well-designed free kick from about 65 yards away that landed in the penalty area) on a goal by junior Sam Zieger that broke a scoreless tie midway through the second half. Sophomore Liam Connaghan’s tally – assisted by junior Mark Mazzoni – supplied insurance.

Even though the Explorers have accrued more than twice as many points as the Prep (21-10), Kalup said defeating their fiercest rival added special meaning.

La Salle senior goalie Ryan Kalup - PSD Photo by Lennie Malmgren

“Absolutely,” Kalup said. “We love the rivalry with St. Joe’s Prep. Of course, a rivalry matchup always is intense, and having three crucial points in the air just adds to the intensity.”

Despite losing two of its last three and dropping its record to 5-4, Conwell-Egan clinched a playoff spot. After a four-game winning streak, the Eagles lost to Lansdale Catholic, 2-0; edged host Roman Catholic, 1-0, on an overtime goal by junior Dylan Kopenits (assisted by junior Liam Mullen); and lost a 1-0 decision at Wood on Sunday.

Happy to make the playoffs and likely destined to finish fifth – though still as high as fourth – Eagles coach Mike Rigney is far from satisfied.

“Not really, to be honest,” Rigney said. “The program is moving in the right direction, and yes, the last two seasons we made huge changes and improvements, so yes, happy in that regard. We are improving for sure, but I think we are better than our record shows.”

Lansdale Catholic is virtually guaranteed a playoff spot. But which Crusaders team would show up in the postseason? The Crusaders’ record of 4-4-1 is reflected by their past six games – loss, tie, win, loss, win, loss. They finish on the road at Bonner-Prendergast and Archbishop Carroll.

“We were having tons of success in the beginning of the year with stringing together good performances,” LC coach Casey Farrell said. “And then all of a sudden we started struggling to find our groove on a game-to-game basis.

“I do think we’re starting to get back to ourselves again, finding that early season form. I look forward to a postseason where we can be dangerous every single game. As a group, we feel that if we are firing on all cylinders, we can beat anyone in front of us.”

Lansdale Catholic finishes on the road at Bonner-Prendergast and Archbishop Carroll - PSD Photo by Donna Eckert

Technically in seventh place (an earlier loss to Lansdale Catholic would serve as a tiebreaker) at an uncharacteristic 4-4-1, Roman Catholic ends a frustrating regular season at La Salle and then at home versus Bonner-Prendergast. The Cahillites sandwiched a 5-2 win over Devon Prep with overtime losses at Archbishop Ryan (2-1 in two extra sessions) and Conwell-Egan, 1-0.

“On paper it looks like there’s an enormous gap between the top four teams and everyone else,” Roman coach Ray DeStephanis said. “I would caution that those top four have some losses against the remaining field as well as several one-goal games and very tightly contested matches. I think if last year taught us anything, it’s that any team, sitting at any seed in the pack, can and potentially will make a deep run.”

The eighth and final playoff spot appears destined for St. Joseph’s Prep. At 3-5-1, the Hawks recently dropped back-to-back tough losses against Archbishop Ryan, 2-1, and La Salle, 2-0.

Roman Catholic senior Pete Crespo's goal to tie the game 1-1 in the 2nd half in an eventual 2-1 loss to Archbishop Ryan - Video by Mark Casasanto:

A Prep victory over either Archbishop Carroll (Tuesday) or Father Judge (Friday) would clinch a playoff. If they lose both, it opens the door for Devon Prep (2-6-1), Cardinal O’Hara (2-7), or Archbishop Carroll (2-7).

“We need to be at the top of our game and play the way we know we can,” Prep senior Joe Sheridan said. “We can’t make mistakes and have to play hard all 80 minutes. We all want to make it to the postseason, so we need to finish the end of the regular season off strong.”

It might seem foolhardy to suggest that Carroll – the current 11th place team in a 12-team league – could possibly make the playoffs. 

But in their last three defeats, the Patriots more than held their own against playoff teams Conwell-Egan (2-0), Father Judge (2-1, one of only four games in which the Crusaders scored fewer than three goals), and La Salle (2-0).

Wins over St. Joseph’s Prep and Lansdale Catholic would most certainly catapult the Patriots to a legendary finish.

The Patriots’ struggles on offense have betrayed excellent center back contributions from senior Sean Goodridge and junior Tyler Sion, and consistently strong goaltending by senior Steve Finley. Carroll has allowed more than two goals only twice (3-1 in season opener at Archbishop Wood; 4-0 versus Archbishop Ryan on September 22).

“The boys have been getting better every game,” Carroll coach Kevin Curly said. “We have been in every game except for the Ryan game. We played Father Judge hard till the end. We took La Salle 0-0 till about six minutes left.

“Unfortunately the work effort is not getting us the results, but couldn't be prouder of the boys. If we win out, we have a good shot at the playoffs, which was our goal at the beginning of the season. So we shall see.”

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