Eagles State Champs!
BY ASHLEY TEATUM
HERSHEY – As the seconds ticked off the clock Friday night, Mountain View’s boys soccer players could taste gold.
Junior Austin Mack made sure they could with his goal off Colby Thomas’ feed in the 51st minute.
And goalkeeper Bobby Pfahl soared above the heads of his opponents to punch out and grab shots to preserve the shutout.
Once the buzzer sounded, the players ran toward each other and embraced in front of their bench, screaming at the top of their lungs and falling into a heap at the 30-yard line.
They had pushed further through the PIAA tournament than any other Lackawanna League soccer team. They achieved more than they ever dreamed they could this season.
And they had gold to show for it.
The Eagles defeated Sewickley Academy, 1-0, a crisp night at Hersheypark Stadium to claim the PIAA Class A boys state soccer championship, becoming the first Lackawanna League soccer team to reach the pinnacle.
“I’m ecstatic,” Colby Thomas said after he had spent some time thanking fans that followed the team to Hershey. “When you look down and see gold, you’ve got to look up and give it to God. Got to give the glory to him.
“It’s unreal. It’s a family here. It’s an unreal feeling. The gold is unreal.”
Mountain View concludes its season undefeated, 18-0.
But gold was more difficult to attain when midfielder Zeb Cross went down just 50 seconds into the match.
After a fast break that drew him into the box, Cross collided with a Sewickley Academy player and fell to the ground. He stayed there, clutching his right arm.
Cross said he dislocated his shoulder, and that the trainer on site popped it back in place, taping the arm so he could return to play.
Once one of the key players for the Eagles was back on the field, they continued using ground passes to try to break down the Panthers.
Sewickley Academy (21-2-1) used aggressive play throughout the first half to tally 10 shots, many of which went high or wide of the net.
“In the beginning they came out really strong and they were doing 45-degree angle passes and the field is really wide,” said Mack, who could not stop grinning. “We just had to get the momentum going.
The teams were scoreless at halftime, and although Sewickley Academy had the first touch in the second half, Mountain View began to chip away, leading to the go-ahead goal in the 51st minute.
That’s when Thomas made a break downfield, forcing three defenders to track him and drawing out the goalkeeper. He tapped the ball to Mack, who booted it in for the score.
“It was either the goalie or the back defender, I’m not sure but I saw the ball deflect,” Mack said. “I saw it and gave it a chance, and it actually made it in. I couldn’t have asked for a better team and a better opportunity with a better coach (Roger Thomas). He’s the best coach I ever had.
“The team has helped me throughout this whole season. I still can’t even believe I did it.”
While the Panthers continued to barrage the net with 14 second-half shots, Pfahl and the rest of the Eagles defense was there to clear away the attacks.
Pfahl, who finished with seven saves, made the play of the game with 10 minutes remaining.
Soaring above other players in the box, he punched two shots out of the goal to keep the Panthers scoreless.
One shot was just inches from the top-right corner of the net. The other he cleared over the crossbar.
“Bobby is a brilliant goalkeeper,” Roger Thomas said. “He is one of the best shot stoppers around. That shot, we’ve shot that at him a thousand times this year. He saved it.
“The touch over the bar, the brilliance of that, that’s a college-level move.”
Both saves led to corner kicks for Sewickley Academy, but the rest of the way, the Eagles shifted to defense, stealing the chances they could and clearing balls high and far from their goal.
“Once we scored we just tried clearing it out,” senior midfielder Nathan Goodenough said. “From that point on, from 30 yards in, we were trying to clear it and get it out.
“This is awesome. I started last year as a junior and I didn’t get much playing time. I worked over the summer and got better and started almost every game this season. It’s really sweet to get a gold.”
As the Eagles’ captains Cross, Dylan Thomas, Colby Thomas and Colin Davis received their award and a giant bar of chocolate, the rest of the players crowded around to kiss the large soccer ball on the state championship trophy.
Roger Thomas retreated to the bench to look at a sign that displayed the team’s mantra for the past three years. It read: Composure, resilience, perseverance, passion, the strength of our unity is greater than the weakness of our parts.
“That’s how we played,” coach Thomas said. “We didn’t just make that up tonight. That has been three years. Except passion, which we added this year.
“They were brilliant opponents. It was a classic state final. I couldn’t be prouder of the other team or of us.”
Sewickley Academy (21-2-1) 0 0 – 0
Mountain View (18-0) 0 1 – 1
MtV - Austin Mack (Colby Thomas) 51:09
Shots-corners: SA 23-9, MtV 5-1.
Saves: Hayden Moyer (SA) 1, Bobby Pfahl (MtV) 7.