SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Ryan Augustine’s goal with 5:20 remaining in the first overtime gave Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic a 1-0 victory over Brockway in the PIAA Class 1A boys’ soccer semifinals Tuesday night at Slippery Rock High School.
(Cover photo by Thomas Weible. Submitted photo)
The score came following a rush by 50-plus goal scorer Joe Kearney who had his shot blocked. A scramble ensued where the Rovers were unable to corral the loose ball with Augustine just able to squeeze the ball across the goal line.
“Whenever you go into overtime in Western Finals it’s good stuff, not just for us, but D9 soccer,” said Brockway head coach Rich Esposito, whose team was the first D9 boys’ team to reach the semifinals. “I just want to thank everyone for all the support we’ve had all year long.”
That score left Brockway’s heart-broken for the first time in 2017, as it was the Rovers (20-1) first loss.
And the loss almost never happened as just minutes before Augustine’s tally a Rovers rush downfield led by Carter Adams nearly resulted in the winning score. Adams made a pass to Clayton Heckman who rifled a shot on goal where Trojans goalkeeper Keaton Jennings was forced to make a diving save. A play that up to that point was the best scoring chance of the game for either team.
“He just missed that,” Esposito said. “That was a golden opportunity, and it was a set play. We practice that corner kick with one of our defenders sucking everybody in and then making that nice run. Zane Puhala put a nice ball out there we just didn’t convert.”
It marked the second time in the game Heckman and the Rovers were denied.
The first came opportunity came at the 26-minute mark of regulation as Zane Puhala’s first corner kick of the game ended up reaching Heckman from about 20 yards out who proceeded to hit the goal post missing the empty net by just inches.
North Catholic controlled the play for much of the first half as they outshot the Rovers 2-0.
“I thought North Catholic had a better possession in the first half, but the kids executed well,” said Esposito.
Brockway played a much evener second half and recorded its first shot on goal with 14 minutes left when Hunter Allenbaugh was turned away by Jennings.
“We told the kids when we had possession we could run on their defense,” Esposito said. “I thought we could move the ball around. We went to a 2-up because we knew we weren’t scoring going 1-on-4. We needed to take our chances. The second-half was more 50-50, we had some great opportunities.”
The Rovers defense was imposing against North Catholic’s sophomore striker Kearney who entered the game with 54 goals on the season. He saw very little open space and did not record a shot on goal.
“We gave them a good game,” Esposito said. “I’m very proud of them. I told them if you can walk off that field at the end of the day win or lose and know you gave your all we’re good. They did, and they should keep their heads held up high, we’re all proud of them.”