Free kick knocks out La Salle

Ex­plor­ers fall in state first round for sec­ond straight year

The Review - - Sports - By Andrew Robinson arobin­son@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @ADRobin­son3 on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA » Tar­inMor­ris had waited four years for his chance at a state play­off win.

So when the op­por­tu­nity pre­sented it­self for the Cen­tral Bucks West se­nior, he rose to the oc­ca­sion. Morris’ bril­liantly hit free kick, around a large wall of de­fend­ers, pro­vided the only goal in a tense and fan­tas­tic PIAA Class 4A first-round game be­tween the Bucks and La Salle Nov. 8 at North­east High School.

The Bucks won 1-0 thanks to Morris’ free kick goal with 16:28 left and an out­stand­ing de­fen­sive ef­fort.

“I knew I had to keep it low,” Morris said. “Their keeper (Brett Werner) is 6-foot- 4, 6-foot-5, I used to play­with hi­mand he saves ev­ery­thing. He’s a re­ally good keeper so I knew I had to keep it low and I was aim­ing for the far post and I was hon­estly hop­ing some­one would nip it, but for­tu­nately it went in.”

With two ex­cel­lent de­fen­sive and pos­ses­sion-ori­ented teams play­ing, chances were few and far be­tween. La Salle and West both had spells of pos­ses­sion but weren’t able to find the fi­nal ball that would lead to op­por­tu­ni­ties.

It was a bit­ter end­ing to the

sea­son for La Salle, which played a great match but saw its sea­son end in the first round of the 4A state tour­na­ment for the sec­ond straight sea­son. The Ex­plor­ers, who de­fended their Catholic League and Dis­trict 12 ti­tles this fall, just weren’t able to put to­gether a clean look at goal.

“This time of year it’s restarts, they found theirs and they buried it,” La Salle coach Tom McCaf­frey said. “It’s a re­al­lyminute dif­fer­ence in the game and they took ad­van­tage of theirs. We, for all our pos­ses­sion, just didn’t cre­ate enough qual­ity chances.”

The dif­fer­ence was the back lines, es­pe­cially CB West’s. Se­nior cen­ter back CJ Lang was the best player on the field, con­stantly win­ning balls in the air or on the ground and keep­ing La Salle from those qual­ity chances.

“They played a lot of long balls that came into the box and we wanted to keep head­ing them out, first ball or sec­ond ball,” Lang said. “That was all on us and we needed that.”

La Salle cen­ter backs Bobby Bohner and Cole Ham­mel had a cou­ple of stout de­fen­sive stands against the Bucks’ big tar­get man Alan Zlotin while Lang had a crit­i­cal late foot to dis­rupt a Ja­cobMittman to ChrisMet­zler pass for West. Car­son Sny­der also played well in the mid­field as did Lang’s cen­ter back part­ner Bai­ley Moyer in the first half, battling for balls with the Ex­plor­ers’ for­wards.

Lang just kept com­ing up huge time af­ter time for his team. As one of the Bucks’ only two se­nior starters, along with Morris, he’s also waited a long time to see a win in states.

“I can pick out the ex­act play, their right back whipped in a ball and ( Lang) had a div­ing header to clear it, stood up and stepped his line,” West coach Ste­fan Szy­giel said. “That’s who he is. Both cen­ter backs, CJ Lang and Bai­ley Moyer, are un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated for all they do.”

Both sides only had one shot on goal in the first half. West’s was bet­ter, but Morris was only able to fire the shot right into Werner while La Salle’s Chris­tian Cal­abretta hit a low skim­mer right toWest keeper Dy­lan Smith.

Smith, the Bucks’ ex­cel­lent ju­nior keeper, made a tremen­dous save on La Salle’s Sean McCal­lum with 20min­utes left. De­ci­sively surg­ing off his line, Smith was able to get in front of McCal­lum’s shot with a de­fender then clear­ing it away.

“They did a re­ally good job, their back cen­ter pair was re­ally, re­ally good tonight,” McCaf­frey said. “They were com­mit­ted as a team tomake sure it was dif­fi­cult and­make us work as a tea­mand they did. We just didn’t get a clean look un­for­tu­nately. When we did, the keeper did a nice job of back­ing his guys and it was a solid de­fen­sive game for both sides.”

The Bucks won the free kick about eight yards off the right cor­ner of the 18-yard penalty box with Morris and Jack Galt lin­ing up over it. Galt made a dummy run over the ball with Morris fol­low­ing up with his shot, which man­aged to skirt the La Salle wall and dinged off the far post and rolled in, also some­how elud­ing Werner.

“They put four or five guys in the wall, so I was a lit­tle sur­prised,” Morris said. “It took away a lit­tle more than half the goal. I didn’t think it was go­ing to go in off the shot, like I said I was hop­ing some­one else would nick it in.”

West ju­nior Kyle Holt came up with the de­fen­sive play of the game with about 7:50 left when he slid on the goal line and used his body to block a shot by Cal­abretta to save a sure goal. Cal­abretta had La Salle’s last chance­when he fired with about 1:25 left, but Smith was able to read it and made the save.

“We have to be ready,” Sny­der said. “Af­ter they (the de­fend­ers) do their jobs, we have to do ours and help out af­ter all they’ve done. We sat and waited for them to play a ball, then­went for it, tried to set­tle down and play to our feet. We were able to play them at their own game.”

CB West will face Cumberland Val­ley in the sec­ond round 4 p.m. Satur­day at Tulpe­hocken High School. Szy­giel said Tues­day was the first state play­off win for the Bucks since at least 1976.

La Salle will grad­u­ate a large core of se­niors, many of them in­te­gral play­ers from the last two sea­sons. While the Ex­plor­ers will re­turn some tal­ented play­ers likeHam­mel andChris Met­zler, the se­niors’ legacy isn’t eas­ily summed up.

“They’re leav­ing be­hind a tro­phy case that’s a lit­tle fuller up at school, but I think their legacy to the younger guys has been that work ethic and that drive to be suc­cess­ful and con­tinue to be suc­cess­ful,” McCaf­frey said. “They didn’t want to be branded as that team af­ter a cham­pi­onship team and they re­ally worked to be their own group of guys. I think mov­ing for­ward you’ll see the guys on the field tonight and the guys in the re­serves right back at it battling with that same men­tal­ity.”

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