by Tom Utescher
Last Wednesday the boys’ soccer team at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy saw the last zero vanish from its season record, and the Blue Devils weren’t particularly happy about it. After starting out the early non-league schedule with a 0-0 tie against Germantown Friends and a 2-0 victory over Strath Haven High School, the Devils slipped to a mark of 1-1-1 at midweek thanks to a 1-0 loss to a perennially powerful Pennington School program.
The Red Raiders registered the lone goal of the game with three minutes and 22 seconds remaining in the second half, rising to a record of 4-0-1.
The trans-Delaware River rivals finished the match playing 10-on-10, since Pennington had a player ejected during the first period, and SCH lost a man in the same manner with nine minutes to go in the second.
Blue Devils senior co-captain Sam McDowell made eight saves in goal, while the Raiders’ Asher Carlson, also a 12th-grader, made five stops for his shutout.
Pennington, one of the most highly-skilled teams SCH had seen up to that point, controlled play for the first seven minutes. Senior Satchel Cortet, who would score the game-winner later on, hit a shot just wide of the cage about three minutes in. His shot came off of an excellent cross from classmate Tunji Onitiri, a formidable forward whose U.S. address is Washington D.C. but who originally hails from Singapore.
The Raiders’ roster also includes two players from Brazil and one from China. Pennington accepts day and boarding students, but unlike Mid-Atlantic Prep League institutions such as Hill School and Lawrenceville, it does not enroll post-graduates.
SCH made its first attack to the 18 about seven minutes into Wednesday’s game, as the flow of the play became more even. The ejection for Pennington played a role, but the Blue Devils also raised their game as they adjusted to this challenging opponent.
About 13 or 14 minutes in, SCH attacked steadily for several minutes but didn’t get any solid shots on net. At the other end, McDowell punched a ball away from the goalmouth as visitor Dawson Decoff threatened, and he then made a save against Cortet.
On a Blue Devil direct kick with 14 minutes left in the half, senior Blake Greenhalgh (the other co-captain) bowed the ball around the right end of the Raiders’ defensive wall, but their keeper, Carlson, swatted it wide of the right post. Five minutes later, Pennington fired high on a direct kick of its own, and the half ended with the score still 0-0.
After fending off an early rush by Onitiri to start the second half, SCH came upfield for a corner kick that did not yield a shot. Later on, a direct boot by junior Andy Stackhouse was saved near the left post by the visitors’ Carlson.
With just under 16 minutes left to play the hosts were hit with a yellow card, but survived that penalty without incident. Five minutes later Pennington was pushed up and had the ball pinballing around inside the SCH 18 yard line, but when a shot finally came, it was a straight-on kick that was stopped with a relatively routine save by McDowell.
A Blue Devil player was red-carded not long after that, but when the visitors’ Cortet angled a shot toward the cage from near the right endline a little later, McDowell once more made a stop for the home side. After junior Jack Lamb led an SCH charge with around five minutes to go, the Raiders went back on the attack, enjoying a period of ball possession that would lead to the only goal of the game.
On a direct kick with 3:22 on the clock, Cortet fired from just beyond the 18 on the left, and although McDowell appeared to get a piece of the ball, in continued into the net. The Blue Devils were unable to make a serious bid to tie the match in the short time remaining.