Photos: Zack Beavers, Donna Eckert, Mike Gray & David Picariello
By: John Knebels
PHILADELPHIA – No upsets.
Despite copious chatter concerning potential stunners, the Philadelphia Catholic League boys’ soccer quarterfinals on October 20 placed the top four seeds into this Wednesday’s semifinal round at James Ramp Playground.
Top-seed Father Judge will meet four-seed Archbishop Wood at 4:00. The second half of the doubleheader will feature two-seed La Salle against three-seed Archbishop Ryan. The two winners will compete in the PCL final Saturday at Northeast High School.
After finishing a perfect 11-0 campaign, Father Judge defeated eight-seed St. Joseph’s Prep, 3-0. Junior Mike Regan’s first-half goal turned out to be the game-winner. Successfully penalty kick conversions by seniors Abou Cherif and Kevin Castro put the game out of reach for the Prep, which had lost to the Crusaders by an identical score one week earlier.
“I don’t think the pressure is different because we are the top seed,” said Regan, whose goal was assisted by junior Juan Cocilano. “We all know it’s win or go home. I think every team is thinking the same thing. Do everything you can do to get the win and move on.”
Up next for the Crusaders is four-seed Archbishop Wood, whom Father Judge defeated, 3-1, back on September 22. Wood advanced after defeating five-seed Conwell-Egan, 2-0. Though both squads finished with the same 7-4 record, the Vikings enjoyed home-field advantage because of a 1-0 regular-season win.
After a scoreless first half, Wood senior Albert Funk scored on a header off a corner feed. A penalty kick conversion by senior Enzo Petruzzelli finished the scoring. The win ended a two-game losing streak by the Vikings, though those losses were at Ryan and La Salle.
“It definitely is a big confidence booster,” Wood senior Adrian Guerrero said. “After struggling towards the end of the season with injuries and overall poor performances, the win helped us realign mentally as well as regain confidence and remind us how good we can be. In the end it feels great to win, but the focus now is on the next game.”
In danger of not reaching the PCL semifinals for the first time since losing to Lansdale Catholic, 3-1, in the 2013 quarters, two-seed La Salle was taken to the limit by an extremely dangerous seven-seed Roman Catholic, but persevered in penalty kicks.
After both teams traded regulation goals (junior Mark Mazzoni for La Salle in first half; senior Evan Hubert, assisted by sophomore Owen Adamow for Roman in second) for a 1-1 tie and neither could solve the other during two overtime sessions, the Explorers received successful PKs from junior Kaden Bono, sophomore Liam Connaghan, senior Matt Siravo, and Mazzoni. Senior goalie Ryan Kalup completed the survival by making two saves.
“With the season and the high school career of the seniors on the line, we understood the significance of the moment and continued to work as hard as we could to end the game in overtime,” said Kalup, whose sensational save on a fully extended dive in the second half proved immense. “Roman was very organized and played extremely well to push it to PK’s.
“When we headed to PK’s, I felt confident in my teammates to finish, and confident in my abilities. In that moment, I just took everything in. We work so hard day in and day out for moments like these. Everyone did their jobs, and we earned our next 80 minutes.”
Next up for the Explorers is a highly anticipated match against three-seed Archbishop Ryan. Both teams finished 9-2, but LaSalle’s 2-1, double-overtime victory over visiting Ryan on September 19 ultimately flip-flopped seeds.
The Raiders, who upended La Salle in last year’s semifinals en route to the PCL crown, were driven to the brink of defeat by six-seed Lansdale Catholic. But with the game scoreless early in the second overtime, freshman Adrian Cucalon contributed a very untypical freshman deed – scoring the game-winner to ignite a thunderous on-field celebration.
With standout sophomore Jack Stackhouse on the bench after receiving a yellow card, Cucalon entered in relief.
“As a sub knowing I’m always second option for striker, I always stay loose and ready in case I’m needed,” said Cucalon, who dedicated the big moment to the memory of his former grade school science teacher at Tacony Academy Charter, Alaine Porter, who recently passed away. “After Jack had to sit, I told myself this was my time to shine and to show what I’m capable of.
“Starting the second half of overtime in the huddle, our captain, (senior) Owen Stock, said ‘run through every ball,’ and with a great run and assist by Mo (senior Mohammed Koneh), I made a near post run and hit it with the outside of my left foot. Probably the best moment I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
Though disappointed to watch from the side, Stackhouse lauded Ryan’s “young buck” for his mega-clutch quarterfinal winner.
“Lansdale put up a good fight just like coach (Ryan Haney) said they would,” Stackhouse said. “They switched some of their guys and it worked out for them, making it harder than it was last time we played them (a 3-0 Ryan win). But we just needed to keep our heads up and keep fighting. When I got a yellow towards the end of the first overtime, I told Adrian that he would be the one to end this game and he could run right by them because he had fresh legs. Mo put in a great cross straight to Adrian.”
Ryan sophomore goalie Naseen Clark, who made a key save during the first overtime, described Cucalon’s tally as a “sigh of relief.”
“I felt ecstatic that we collectively knew that we were going to give it our all,” Clark said. “Watching the guys rush over him after the winning goal was just a joyous time for everyone.”
(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 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