Youthful Neshaminy edges Pennsbury to clinch
Even the chariot scene in Ben Hur paled in comparison to the drama inherent in last week’s soccer showdown between Neshaminy and Pennsbury. All the essential ingredients were there; Senior Night for the Redskins, a big school rivalry, and most importantly a shot at the Suburban One League (SOL) National Conference title.
John Blickle, Neshaminy’s center midfielder, realized the game’s importance. “Everybody knew it was the biggest game of the year, especially against Pennsbury because they’re our big rival. Everyone was so motivated to win the game.”
Previous experience told the “Skins they needed to shut down Pennsbury’s Charlie Rushing. “We had played Pennsbury earlier. The first game was pretty even, but we ended up win- ning 2-0. This time, we knew we had to stop number 10 (Rushing). He’s one of their better players so we had to mark up on him. Next, we had to play our game and come out with a lot of energy.”
The Redskins certainly were determined to make their Senior Night a total success as they dominated most of the early action. Three minutes into the contest, Neshaminy’s Nick Tucci made a good run that was only thwarted by a great save by Pennsbury goalie Spencer McCullough. Cody Mining took the rebound and blasted a shot that hit off the crossbar.
John was not surprised by the ‘Skins’ early assault. “I could tell we were controlling most of the game. It was Senior Night and we had a big crowd. We were rolling with a bunch of motivation and adrenaline.”
Unfortunately for the hometown fans, the soccer gods did not favor the ‘Skins with an actual score. “We didn’t make any adjustments at the half. Our coach (Tim Foley) just said if we step it up a little bit more, we could pinch a goal and take the game.”
The big score came early in the second half. John well remembers the play. “Nick Tucci was on a free kick and it bounced out to Jim McCourt who crossed it again and Reynaldo (Bonilla) was at the back of the net and finished.”
The 1-0 win assured the Redskins sole possession of first place in the very balanced and competitive SOL National Division. The achievement proved particularly satisfying for an inexperienced squad that had only two returning starters in Nick Tucci and Austin Transue.
In John’s words, “We are a very young team. We didn’t have many expectations coming into the season. We didn’t know what was going to happen. It turned out that the young guys stepped up big and we went on a roll.”
With big wins over such tough league rivals as Pennsbury, Tennent, and CR South, the youthful ‘Skins gained a belief in their ability. “Winning the league is always a goal but we weren’t sure. We kept playing well and finally got it. We kept getting big league wins and it gave us confidence so we rolled along on our confidence.”
Neshaminy did not have long to savor their titleclinching achievement. The next night, they took on a very talented Radnor team in a game that would prove a tune-up for the upcoming district playoffs. The ‘Skins magic prevailed as coach Foley’s charges bested their
“After the Pennsbury game, everyone was pumped. We actually had a game the next day so we had to quickly get our mind on that. After that game, we had a short practice and talked about being SOL champs but we all knew we had to get ready to move on.”
Neshaminy’s 12-3-2 overall record earned them a sixth seed in the PIAA District One playoffs. The Skins open districts Oct. 23 when they take on Unionville (results not available at press time) in what they hope is a strong postseason.
“I don’t know much about Unionville. For the past two years, we haven’t had that much luck in the playoffs. We have to go game by game and hopefully make a big run.”
The spirited victory over Pennsbury just might spark such a march toward district gold.
Chris Watson makes a great save for the Redskins.
Ken Herrmann and Steve Tomaszewski fight for possession.
Reynaldo Bonilla shows deft footwork for Neshaminy