Penn Charter’s Anthony Ciarrocchi (right) guides the ball away from fellow junior Dane Harmaty of Springside Chestnut Hill. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Last Tuesday the Inter-Ac League soccer wars began with an intense battle at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. After the first half ended with the score still 0-0, the visiting Quakers of Penn Charter led twice in the second half. The SCH Blue Devils came back to tie each time, then won 3-2 in overtime on a goal by Drexel University-bound senior Phil Burkhardt.

Both squads had been successful in non-league outings in September, SCH coming into the Inter-Ac opener with a 7-1 record, and PC at 6-1-1.

In Friday’s match, Burkhardt also deposited the first goal for the hosts on a direct kick. That matched the first goal of the game, scored by PC junior Jude Shorr-Parks, and after the Quakers went ahead again on a Shorr-Parks goal in real-time play, the Blue Devils drew even once more with a marker by sophomore Jack Leininger.

It had been 11 months since Springside Chestnut Hill had beaten Malvern Prep in overtime to clinch the 2017 league title, and last Tuesday there was one carryover from that day that negatively affected the Devils. Midfielder Connor Koschineg, already a starter as a freshman in 2017, had received a red card in the game, and had to serve his one-game suspension in last week’s 2018 Inter-Ac opener.

Charter was the early aggressor, and SCH senior goalie Owen Elliott had to make his first save (of eight) just over two minutes into the game after a run through the middle by Shorr-Parks.

The junior has been a scoring threat for the Quakers since his freshman year and was well known to the Blue Devils, but the hosts still let him run free a number of times.

“He’s quick and he’s crafty, and he was able to find the space behind the back line,” said SCH head coach Brian Zalasky. “To be fair to my guys back there, they’re either young players or guys who haven’t played a lot on defense in the past.”

Senior Luke Greenberg, a major scoring threat for the team in previous seasons, has been moved back on the field to help firm up the defense, where SCH suffered significant graduation (and injury) losses from 2017.

In the second 10 minutes the Blue Devils got up the field on offense, but couldn’t generate a serious shot off of two long throw-ins by Scott Bandura. Later, the junior later made a nice play at the other end, heading the ball out of the box on a well-struck PC corner kick.

The visitors continued to spend more time on the attack than the hosts, but the tally was still 0-0 at halftime.

The Blue Devils got off the first serious shot of the second period, striking the right post of the Quakers’ cage. Soon after that, Shorr-Parks and PC sophomore Nico Kreuger attacked together toward the Blue Devils’ 18-yard-line. Kreuger was taken down in the box and the resulting penalty kick was taken by Shorr-Parks, who scored low on the left with 35:49 remaining in the second half.

On another charge by Shorr-Parks a little later, the Charter forward got past a defender, but the ball got a little too far ahead of him and SCH’s Elliott dashed out from the cage to snatch the ball away.

After SCH freshman Casey Baker was tripped a little outside the PC 18 on the right, Burkhardt took the direct kick and fired to the left side, tying the game with 19:03 remaining.

The visitors were soon out in front again. Receiving a pass from senior Max Lubowitz, Shorr-Parks sped through the box at the right post and gave PC a 2-1 advantage with 16:44 on the clock.

Springside Chestnut Hill quickly set about trying to tie the match once more. At the 15-minute mark a header by Burkhardt traveled wide to the right of the cage, and not long after that a pass from left to right across the front of the Charter goal found no Devils in position to punch the ball in.

It was a freshman/sophomore combo that evened the score at 2-2 for SCH. Baker sent the ball into the middle of the box and Leininger, a member of the track team in the spring season, ran onto it and scored with 6:04 left to play.

“This season, most of the times when another team has taken the lead on us we’ve been able to answer pretty quickly,” Coach Zalasky said. “It was good to see the young players step up, since we were missing Connor and we have a few other guys dinged up. They can learn the skills and the strategy in practice, and the next big step is to be able to put them into play against a skilled, physical opponent like Penn Charter.”

The game went into overtime at 2-2, Penn Charter starting things off with a threatening serve and seeing SCH sophomore Christian Vetter head the ball out of the box. On an attack that ended with Shorr-Parks stumbling down, PC was arguing for a trip in the box to be called, but that didn’t happen.

Near the start of the second five-minute OT, SCH sent a potentially dangerous bouncing ball into the box, but the Quakers’ senior goalie, Kyle Earley, hauled it in. A hard shot by PC’s Kreuger strayed just outside the top left corner of the SCH goal, then the hosts went back up on offense. Off of a long free kick from the right side by freshman Sean Stackhouse, Burkhardt got his head on the ball in front of the cage for the winning goal with just 21 seconds remaining.

The match had been a barnburner, but that’s not unusual in Inter-Ac competition.

Zalasky noted “I think the character of last year’s team has carried over for us, with their belief that you can find a way to win if your grind it out and fight to the end. The Inter-Ac is always a battle, and it’s important that the older guys communicate that to the younger ones, and let them know what it takes.”

UPDATE: On Thursday the Blue Devils defeated their other Inter-Ac rival on this side of the Schuylkill, topping visiting Germantown Academy, 2-1. Burkhardt provided both goals against GA. As mentioned, the senior recently committed to Drexel University, and his classmate Owen Elliott announced that he’s headed to Penn State.

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