Dane Harmaty (left), a Blue Devils sophomore, tries to protect the ball from PC senior Connor Sullivan. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

After each team scored within the first 11 minutes of last Friday’s Inter-Ac soccer match, spectators from Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and visiting Penn Charter may have felt they were going to witness a high-scoring shoot-out.

After that, though, the only numbers that changed on the electronic scoreboard were the ones on the clock. Neither the host Blue Devils nor PC’s Quakers were able to find the goal again during the remainder of regulation play, and after 10 minutes of overtime the teams were forced to settle for a 1-1 tie. The early markers had come from two seniors, Phil Burckhardt of SCH and Andrew Morris of Penn Charter.

For SCH, which had been 4-0 in the league in the middle of the month, last week brought a sobering reminder about the highly competitive grind that is Inter-Ac soccer. Under the lights at the Philadelphia Union’s Talen Energy Stadium on Tuesday, the Blue Devils gave up a second-half goal and fell to another title contender, Malvern Prep, 1-0. After Friday’s match the team was 4-1-1 in the league and 13-2-2 overall.

That, however, got the Blue Devils back into a tie with Malvern for the league lead, since the Friars lost at Haverford School on Friday (2-1) to also end the week with a 4-1-1 mark. In the standings, each win counts for three points and a tie for one point, so the two first-place squads each had a total of 13.

Speaking of last Tuesday’s evening outing, SCH head coach Brian Zalasky said, “Playing at Talen was an unbelievable experience – truly unique.”

He added that although his squad put up an early goal on Friday, “I think we were still sort of feeling the hangover from that night game. We got back to school late and I think it just sort of threw the guys out of their routine.”

After their 4-0 start in the Inter-Ac, the Blue Devils were unable to add to their win total in the third week of the season, and Zalasky observed, “The way this league is, we’re going to have those lulls. The question is, how long do we stay in them?

“I thought after the loss to Malvern we could come back and get a win today,” he continued, “but a tie is not the worst thing in the world.”

Friday’s draw was less satisfactory for Penn Charter, which came away 1-3-2 in the league.

Bob DiBenedetto, longtime leader of the Quakers (6-6-3 overall), pointed out “Coming away with one point is okay if you’re sitting on top of the table, but we’re not. We really wanted to win this.”

In the league opener a few weeks before, Springside Chestnut Hill had edged the Quakers, 1-0, in another overtime bout that was decided on a goal by sophomore Dane Harmaty.

Not long after that, DiBenedetto moved the experienced Morris up the field to join sophomore striker Jude Shorr-Parks.

“It’s helped us because now other teams have two legitimate guys up top that they have to defend,” DiBenedetto said.

SCH sophomore Vince Sciarrotta (left, above) catches a ride on the back of Charter senior Andrew Morris as the two players go after a loose ball. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

It also created opportunities for two other PC players, junior Max Lubowitz and sophomore Ryan Holmes, to score in last Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Germantown Academy. The Quakers paid a price for that victory, as starting goalie Kyle Earley, a junior and one of the team captains, left the field late in the game with an ankle injury.

Other former starters were also out hurt on Friday: senior Griffin Barnes, junior E.T. Cripe and freshman Nico Kreuger. Earley actually warmed up at Springside Chestnut Hill, hoping to play, but ultimately he had to turn over the cage to his classmate Chase Williams.

The Blue Devils, meanwhile, were missing experienced junior Peter Kapp, senior morale booster Seth Rabinowitz and a few younger players who ordinarily help spell the starters.

Penn Charter was the early aggressor, but about five minutes in, the Quakers were attacking up the right wing and lost the ball. SCH’s Burckhardt countered across midfield and down the left side, speeding past a few Charter defenders who drifted over to meet him. PC’s Williams blocked the initial shot, but the Blue Devils got the rebound to go in.

Going ahead with 34:35 still remaining in the first period, the hosts kept attacking but didn’t add to their lead. On a corner kick the ball was headed out of the PC box by Morris, then a run down the right wing by SCH junior Luke Greenberg was halted by Quakers sophomore Anthony Ciarrocchi.

Just past the 10-minute mark the visitors went back on offense, progressing along the left flank and having Shorr-Parks penetrate along the endline.

SCH mentor Zalasky narrated, “We had a lost mark on the side and we weren’t pressing up enough on Jude, who’s a quick, skilled player. He got behind our defense and put a good ball across.”

As the sophomore sent the ball across the face of the goal, Morris was coming in to close off the play at the right post, and he scored to pull PC even with 28:57 left in the half.

Eager to regain the advantage, Springside Chestnut Hill made some charges in the following minutes, including ones that ended with shots over the Quakers’ crossbar by Burckhardt and by sophomore Kevin Buck. PC did not sit back against the powerful Blue Devil offense, but attacked in turn. On a restart the Quakers headed the ball too high, and off of a lateral left-right pass high in the box, Morris booted the ball wide of the right post.

With 10 minutes left in the half, the Blue Devils’ Burckhardt made a run similar to the one he’s scored on earlier, but this time his shot was not on-frame. Charter was on the offensive after that. Shorr-Parks and junior Billy Melnick pounded shots to the right and the left of the Devils’ cage, respectively. On a chip into the box, there were several Quaker headers near the mouth of the goal, but they sent the ball up in the air rather than toward the cage, and SCH junior keeper Owen Elliott was finally able to pull down the ball.

The home team would have the final word in the period, though. With five seconds to go, freshman Connor Koschineg’s shot tracked too far to the right and halftime arrived with the game still tied.

The first scoring chance for either team in the second half came on a corner kick that SCH sent straight through the box. The Devils got the ball back into the middle for a Koschineg header wide of the left post. Soon, there was a near miss at the other end on an outside shot by Melnick of the Quakers.

So it went through the second half.

“I thought Chestnut Hill played one of the best games I’ve seen them play,” DiBenedetto remarked. “They were giving our outside backs a hard time and we had to adjust for that. We have a short bench, and we got tired at the end.”

A long ball launched from the right by Shorr-Parks was one of the most threatening shots of the later stages of the second half. As the ball angled in with a good bit of pace on it, the Blue Devil’s leaping keeper, Elliott, was able to get his fingertips on it and deflect it outside of the left post.

The squads continued to fight for a go-ahead goal, on one play there were two SCH players and one of the visitors down on the ground at the same time following contact. In the end, the tie could not be broken even during the additional 10 minutes of overtime, and each ball club came away with one point in the Inter-Ac standings.

“We couldn’t find the net,” the Devils’ Zalasky said. “We knew their regular keeper wasn’t in there and we didn’t test the other guy enough. Now I told our guys just to rest over the weekend, and be ready to get back at it on Tuesday against GA.”

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