SCH’s Luke Feeney (left) and fellow senior Eli Kestenbaum of Penn Charter go up for a head ball while PC junior Augustus Smith plays a supporting role. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

On Oct. 25 at Haverford School, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy closed in on the Inter-Ac League soccer title with a 1-0 victory, avenging its lone league loss and dealing a serious blow to a Fords squad that was second in the standings.

Last Tuesday, SCH kept coming from behind against visiting Penn Charter and eventually the contest ended in a 3-3 overtime tie. Acquiring one point in the Inter-Ac standings with the draw (a win is worth three points), they were now beyond the reach of the Fords, wrapping up the league championship with one game to go.

If the game at Haverford featured two skilled opponents playing astute defense in a bout that could be likened to a Queensbury Rules boxing match, then last week’s game between the Blue Devils and the PC Quakers was simply a street brawl.

PC came in with a rash of injuries and a 3-5 league record, but the Quakers still could be spoilers. If they won and Haverford defeated GA on the same afternoon (they did, 3-1), SCH’s celebration would probably be postponed at least until Nov. 9, when they would finish out their league schedule with a road game against last place Malvern Prep.

The game quickly developed into a scrappy affair, as SCH played for a title and PC played for pride. The official let a lot of contact go unpunished for much of the afternoon, but then began to call a pretty tight game late in the day.

PC had arrived in Chestnut Hill with three starting players sidelined for medical reasons: freshman Jimmy Melnick and senior captains Anthony Ciarrocchi and Jude Shorr-Parks. To make matters worse, senior goalie Chase Williams suffered a shoulder injury while warming up for the game. Juniors Sebastian Tilley and Nick Perricelli would both see action in the Quakers’ cage.

SCH had a number of veteran players injured early in the season. They were mostly back to full strength last Tuesday, although junior Chrisitan Vetter was sitting out thanks to a hard collision in the Haverford game.

PC attacked early, but it wasn’t long before SCH made its first advance. Springside senior Dane Harmaty crossed the ball from the right, and a header by classmate Scott Bandura veered a little wide to the left. On another promising SCH serve, Tilley batted the ball out of danger.

Up the field, Charter junior Nico Krueger brought the ball across the Blue Devils’ 18-yard line, but he didn’t have any supporting runs and was swarmed by four SCH defenders. The home team came back up the pitch, and from far out on the left flank, sophomore Moje Badejoko teed off for a hard shot that traveled wide of the far post.

A little over halfway through the first period, Bandura booted a hard shot from the left a little over the Quakers’ crossbar, and Tilley later handled a header by Harmaty off of a corner kick. When the clock dropped down near 10 minutes, a cross inside from the right wing by freshman Daniel Heep led to a shot wide of the goal by sophomore Tommy Monaghan.

As the half wound down, Tilley blocked a close shot by Harmaty, and SCH junior Connor Koschineg fired high of the cage.

The SCH Blue Devils gathered in a goal just after clinching the 2019 Inter-Ac League soccer championship. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Despite a number of chances for the two teams, both goalies kept their cages sealed during the first 40 minutes, but the walls soon came tumbling down after that. For the start of the second half, Perricelli took over from Tilley in the PC cage.

Harmaty and his classmate, Luke Feeney, got off some of the first shots in the new period, but the Quakers would make the first mark on the scoreboard.

Krueger led the Charter offense on the attack, and this time the Quakers had numbers. The Blue Devils weren’t able to clear the ball as it pinballed around the box, and junior Julian Fernandez jammed it into the net for the first marker of the afternoon.

This came with 34:16 left to play, and just 50 seconds later, PC led 2-0 as senior Ryan Bradby scored in the aftermath of a corner kick sequence. Once again, the Blue Devils had let the ball bounce loose a little too long near their goalcage.

The same type of dilemma developed inside the Quakers’ 18, as the hosts attacked with a new sense of urgency. The Blue Devils forged into the box and kept the ball there until Koschineg punched it in from a few yards out. Things didn’t quite click for the Devils on what would’ve been a spectacular tying goal. From the left endline, Harmaty directed the ball across the goalmouth, as senior Chase Rotelle charged in from the other side and almost scored on a dramatic aerobatic leap.

A little over 10 minutes into the second half, PC keeper Perricelli was injured and had to leave the field. Tilley, the starter, went back in.

Despite attempts by the Quakers to extend their lead and a number of chances for SCH to tie, it looked as though PC might ride its 2-1 advantage to the final horn.

The SCH home crowd breathed a little easier when, with just over five minutes to go, Bandura banged the ball in from near the left post after senior Vince Sciarrotta crossed it from the right side.

Following a near miss by Charter’s Krueger with two minutes left, the game proceeded into the standard Inter-Ac overtime session: two five-minute periods played in full.

It was just as well for the Blue Devils that there was no golden goal provision in the rules. A minute-and-a-half remained in the first OT when PC sophomore Jackson Tullo sent a shot from a little to the right of the middle of the box rocketing into the left side of the goal. Daylight was beginning to fade fairly quickly at this point; the game probably should have begun earlier than 4 p.m.

In the second five-minute segment, SCH had an opportunity on a long throw-in, but nobody could get to the ball inside. A little later, SCH attacked across the middle of the 18. Tilley, the keeper, came out and tried to grab the ball, but he lost hold of it and Harmaty bodied it into the cage for the tying goal. PC wanted a whistle for interference with the keeper, but no call was made.

The score was now evened out at 3-3 with two minutes to go, and that’s the way the game ended. It felt a tad anticlimactic, but the tie was enough for SCH to wrap up the 2019 league championship.

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