Free kick knocks out La Salle
Explorers fall in state first round for second straight year
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.”