by Tom Utescher
Last Thursday afternoon, the 3-0 figure on the scoreboard at the end of the boys’ soccer match at Germantown Academy was one of those final scores that was deceiving. Following an early goal by senior Luke Vogelman for visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the contest remained a 1-0 game until a little over two minutes were left to play.
Just as the curtain was about to descend on this Inter-Ac League performance, SCH junior Luke Greenberg charged down to fire a pair of goals that gave the Blue Devils a comfortable cushion at the end. Earlier, one of junior goalie Owen Elliott’s three saves had spoiled the Patriots’ chance to tie the match on a penalty kick.
Elliott and the Devils logged their seventh consecutive shutout (and eighth overall) as they raised their record to 10-1-1 overall and 2-0 within the league. SCH had also blanked Abington High School, 3-0, in a game-situation scrimmage just before the first official PIAA game date.
Germantown Academy, which had opened the league season two days earlier with a 1-0 loss at Episcopal Academy, slipped to 0-2 in the Inter-Ac and 3-6-1 overall with Thursday’s setback in Carey Stadium.
The Blue Devils had also launched their league campaign on Tuesday, battling into overtime at 0-0 with host Penn Charter. With an assist from junior Phil Burckhardt, sophomore Dane Harmaty decided the issue with a shot that glanced off a defender before entering the Quakers’ cage. Burckhardt continued to be a valuable set-up man at GA, where he assisted on two of the Blue Devils’ three goals.
Pondering the team’s impressive performance over the first half of the season, SCH head coach Brian Zalasky remarked, “To be honest, I think we’ve been lucky at times and caught some breaks, but when we go out on the field, even at practice, we tell the guys ‘we can choose to be positive’. When you have that attitude, good things often come your way.”
The GA Patriots have been working through some personnel issues. In the team’s first game last week, a starting back received a red card and thus has to sit out Thursday’s encounter. This contributed to the defensive difficulties the Pats are coping with due to injuries and other circumstances that have wrought havoc with the goalie pool.
The top two varsity keepers were out of action for the SCH match, as well as the next two netminders in reserve. Sophomore Owen Wetzel, who hadn’t been playing in the cage at all, answered the call. He wound up with eight saves and helped keep Thursday’s match a one-goal game until the final few minutes.
“He’s a center midfielder on the JV team, so that was a pretty good job of coming in to play goalie for the varsity,” commented Germantown head coach Brendan Sullivan. “He’s a great kid from a real GA family, and he did them proud.”
Sullivan also praised the efforts of junior Jake Kotik in filling in for the Patriots’ suspended starter.
Unfortunately for Sullivan’s charges, they found themselves playing from behind almost immediately. With one minute and 55 seconds elapsed, the Blue Devils’ Vogelman fired from the top left corner of the box across into the far side of the GA goal.
Later in the first 10 minutes, a run by Patriot senior Harrison Combs ended when SCH junior back Jack Myers cleared the ball out of danger, and a Springside Chestnut Hill corner kick resulted in a series of headers in the box by both sides and then an SCH foul.
Combs made an even stronger bid for a tying goal when he slammed a high shot toward the middle of the visitors’ goal frame. SCH’s Elliott stretched up and extended his arms to deflect the ball off his palms and over the crossbar. A little later, the Blue Devils shot the ball into the outside of the left net panel of the GA cage, and the Patriots sent a corner kick into the middle but headed the ball high.
Vogelman made another charge from the left for the visiting side, but this time his shot sent the ball outside of the near post. The count was still 1-0 at the intermission.
GA became more aggressive as the second half got underway.
“We started to commit more guys forward,” Sullivan said. “When you’re at home you don’t sit back; you try to tie that game and then win it.”
His opposite number, Zalasky, observed, “Brendan prepares his team well and they’re particularly dangerous on restarts. In the first part of the second half there were a lot of fouls on both sides and that helped give them some good chances. Fortunately, we knew what to watch out for, and we stayed focused and we anticipated well.”
Just over five minutes in, the ball was rolling across the middle of the SCH box and GA senior Oliver Buck closed on it, sending the ball a bit too far to the left. With 36:43 the clock stopped when a foul in the visitors’ box produced a penalty kick for Germantown’s Will Noe.
From the bench, one of the Blue Devils shouted several times, “He’s going right.”
Noe may or may not have heard this, but in any event he aimed a low shot to the left and Elliott was ready for him. Diving toward the post, he stopped the ball and drew a roar of approval from his teammates.
This was followed by a GA free kick that produced a header over the goal, and at the other end a long outside shot by SCH was well off the mark. Near the middle of the period, the Patriots volleyed the ball from the right endline and it travelled along the SCH crossbar in the air, still in play.
Germantown had no one in position closing off the far post, and this opportunity came to naught.
GA senior Ian Lugossy and SCH’s Harmaty each had a shot saved by the opposing keeper, and with 13 minutes left a direct kick by the Patriots from outside the top left corner of the box tracked over the cage.
The exchanges continued. The ball sailed into the box on a corner by GA and then on a long throw-in by SCH, but the airborne object was headed out of the danger zone by Blue Devil senior Michael Buck at one end and by the Patriots’ Noe at the other.
In the last five minutes SCH grew increasingly confident and assertive. Burkhardt centered the ball from near the right sideline, and Luke Greenberg headed it in from the middle of the box with 2:05 left on the clock. With 50 seconds to go, Greenberg sized up a shot from high in the left side of the box, and seeing Wetzel in the middle of the cage he targeted the top right corner to lock in the final score.