by Tom Utescher
A pair of second-half goals carried visiting Penn Charter to a 2-0 victory over Springside Chestnut Hill Academy last Tuesday, and it was just as well that the controversy that arose over one of the scoring plays involved the insurance goal, and not the game-winner.
Freshman Harrison Williams deposited the first goal of the day with a little under 33 minutes left to play, and with about seven-and-a-half minutes remaining the Quakers collected a second goal that was credited to junior Bradford Jones. The second sequence not only involved an SCH defensive miscue on an attempted back-pass to its goalie, but also a Penn Charter player who was offsides, according to the linesman’s flag. The head referee did not acknowledge the linesman’s signal, and the goal was added to the official record.
With the win at SCH’s Carson Valley field, PC improved to 2-1 in the young Inter-Ac League season, while the host Blue Devils were still looking for their first victory, at 0-3-1. Both teams lost to Haverford School, but against Episcopal Academy the Quakers won and SCH lost. The Devils’ tie came against Germantown Academy, 2-2.
After the SCH game last Tuesday, Penn Charter coach Bob DiBenedetto commented, “This is always a good one because they play such good soccer and they’re tough, so to come out with a win is big, especially on the road. We felt that we would have the bulk of the play, but we’ve been having some trouble finishing our opportunities. If you’d told me we were going to get two, I’d have said that would win us the game.”
The coach of each club described the opposition as “physical,” and to a large degree each was correct. The question was, which squad could remain more focused on its game plan while absorbing the inevitable contact? The answer was Penn Charter, particularly in the second half.
After the first period, the 0-0 stalemate on the scoreboard accurately reflected the action on the field.
But when play resumed after the intermission, related SCH skipper Joe DiSalvo, “We got away from what we’d talked about before the game – wanting to keep the ball on the ground. We had the ball up in the air too much and since they’re a bigger, more physical team, that played into their hands. The last thing we needed to do was keep firing aerial balls into their box.”
Likewise, DiBenedetto expected aggressive soccer from SCH, and wanted his players to minimize the time each man spent handling the ball. The Quakers received and passed the ball crisply through much of the afternoon.
“We were doing a lot of one and two-touch stuff in practices leading up to this,” the Charter mentor said. “The easier way to take that physical aspect away is to move the ball quickly. We played against our own JV team in practice yesterday, and I actually had them put two extra men on the field. I told our guys, this is what it’s going to be like – you won’t have time to play around with the ball.”
Coming in, a list of injured players for Springside Chestnut Hill included junior midfielder Anthony Liddy. In addition, due to league rules Devils have to undertake their Inter-Ac games without junior Alec Greenhalgh, a transfer from Council Rock North High School who starts for SCH in non-league contests. Throughout the season, Penn Charter has been missing injured defender Josh Cannon, one of the Quakers’ senior tri-captains.
A captain for the Blue Devils, Tom Higgins, got off the first shot in Tuesday’s tilt, hitting a ball past the upper right corner of the Quakers’ cage. The hosts continued to attack for several minutes, then PC had a go.
From near the left corner, sophomore Addison Cripe hit a cross that tracked a little high and went out of bounds. On two more crosses into the middle by the visitors, one ball was headed over the bar by Williams, and on the other junior Matt Sullivan was unable to get a firm foot on the ball inside.
Late in the period, the Devils served in a corner kick from the left side, but PC freshman keeper Andrew Verdi (six saves) leapt up to snare the ball and the half ended at 0-0.
Early in the second period, each team hit a few balls inside the other club’s box, but the only threatening shot was fired from the outside by SCH junior Phillip Kelly and saved by PC’s Verdi.
A little over a dozen minutes in, a group of players clumped around the Blue Devils’ 18 yard line and Quakers’ senior co-captain Sam Agre sent the ball to Williams in the middle. The freshman fired immediately to punch the ball past a fellow ninth-grader, SCH goalie Same McDowell (five saves).
“He’s the most poised kid in the box that we’ve had in some time,” stated DiBenedetto. “He’s just a finisher.”
Penn Charter controlled a good deal of the play the rest of the way, passing the ball quickly to keep it away from the Devils. On the second scoring play, the Quakers’ Jones was in the box and went over to try and take the ball from an SCH defender. An intended Blue Devil back-pass to McDowell went awry and the ball rolled way over into the right corner of the goal with 7:30 left to play. The linesman’s offsides flag, which had been raised on Jones, went unheeded.
“A kid who was offsides was clearly involved in the play,” noted SCH’s DiSalvo. “The linesman put his flag up for offsides, and then that same player ends up pressuring us to play a ball back to our keeper – that’s offsides every day of the week. If the call had been made we still would’ve had seven or eight minutes to get one and tie the game, but instead now we’re down 2-0.”
PC’s DiBenedetto came away pleased with the composure shown by his squad.
“We played around the goal very well,” he said. “On defense, we defended their big throw very well – we’d worked on that for a couple of days. Like I said, in this league a road win is a big deal.”