OJR gets crucial early-season win at Boyertown
BOYERTOWN » It’s hard to imagine the second league game of the season feeling like a must-win. But that would mean overlooking where the Owen J. Roberts boys’ soccer team has been.
A disastrous 1-4 start to their Pioneer Athletic Conference campaign in 2017 left the Wildcats in chase mode all fall, not an ideal position to be in the constantly-competitive Liberty Division.
So the Wildcats could be forgiven for being especially boosted by their 2-1 comefrom-behind victory at Boyertown Thursday night.
After Boyertown’s opening goal from Landon Wenger was answered three minutes later by OJR’s Josh Fonder, junior Noah Greenspan delivered the decisive goal with 16:26 left in regulation on a speculative but well-placed shot from 25 yards out before OJR (1-1 PAC, 1-2 overall) buckled down and rebounded from Wednesday night’s overtime defeat to Perkiomen Valley.
“After last night’s tough loss, I told the team that we’ve gotta bounce back,” senior Fonder said. “One loss isn’t going to decide our season. Everybody bought into that and believed and played like our season was on the line.”
Boyertown (1-1, 2-1), under new coach Mark Chambers, who replaced longtime coach Scott Didyoung, was coming off a 2-0 win over Methacton on Wednesday. While the result wasn’t favorable, Chambers felt very favorably about the Bears’ performance.
“We played the way we want to play, possessed the ball and mixed things up well,” said Chambers, who last year was the Boyertown girls’ JV head coach. “That tonight was our best performance so far as a team even though the result didn’t go in our favor.”
“A couple breakdowns defensively cost us but against teams like Owen J. are going to capitalize on their opportunities.”
OJR got the other side of the coin, also seeing how performance doesn’t necessarily control wins and losses.
“I would say we played just as well (compared to Wednesday against PV), just tonight we got the result. Things went our way,” OJR defender Beckett Houck said.
Fonder, a Mercury AllArea first team selection in 2017, delivered the goal of the night and an early candidate for PAC goal of the season. Junior Gavin Zorn won the ball 1-v-1 at midfield, carried it forward and played a lofted, centering ball over the top between the center backs to an on-rushing Fonder, who rose and volleyed it with his boot over charging Boyertown goalkeeper Mason Kurtz to level the match 1-1 at 27:52 in the second half.
“I’ve been trying to get him to play that ball throughout the season so far. I told him I’m going to be making those runs every game,” Fonder said. “I put my hand up and he saw me and put it in a perfect spot. It was an amazing assist. He put it right where I needed it.”
The first half could not deliver a breakthrough, but the Bears’ Wenger changed that 10 minutes into the second half. After a strong spell from the Bears that forced a save off the goal line from OJR defender Dante Carroll, Wenger picked up the ball on a goalkeeper clearance from OJR’s Ryan Walker and sprinted down the right side, catching the OJR defense a step slow before shooting across goal for the 1-0 Boyertown lead.
After Fonder’s reply, the game was largely even until an innocuous OJR free kick from midfield was played into the penalty area and wasn’t cleared properly by the Bears. Greenspan picked it up from 25 out and hit it toward the upper-left corner of goal. Kurtz managed to tip it up but couldn’t keep it out for the 2-1 OJR lead.
Senior center back Houck and the OJR defense got stronger down the stretch and minimized Boyertown’s chances to the final whistle.
“I liked our effort. We gave 100 percent the whole time and that’s what gave us the edge,” Houck said.
Boyertown forward Nick Willson (17) and Owen J. Roberts defender Dom Carroll (28) battle for the ball.
Boyertown’s Landon Wenger, right, celebrates with Nick Willson (17) after scoring a goal in the second half against Owen J. Roberts.