Spring-Ford ousted by Free­dom, 1-0

Rams’ his­toric post­sea­son run ends in first round of states

The Phoenix - - SPORTS - By Austin Hert­zog ahert­[email protected]­tu­ry­media. com @AustinHert­zog on Twit­ter

ALLENTOWN >> Free­dom head coach Matthew Reightler was com­pletely cer­tain.

“That was the best team we faced all year. I’ll say that without a doubt,” the sec­ond-year coach said min­utes af­ter fac­ing SpringFord. “They had us on the back foot. They pushed us re­ally hard.”

Bet­ter and win­ner aren’t syn­ony­mous, as post­sea­son soc­cer of­ten proves.

Spring-Ford bossed Tues­day night’s PIAA Class 4A play­off first round match but was un­done by Free­dom’s one and only shot on goal as Free­dom claimed a 1-0 vic­tory at J. Bir­ney Crum Sta­dium in Allentown, end­ing the Rams’ sea­son.

Se­bas­tian Garces got the de­ci­sive poke of a de­flected shot in a big scrum in front of the Spring-Ford goal with 21.2 sec­onds un­til half­time. While the goal won’t win them any style points, Free­dom’s de­fen­sive record earns it many points: the Pa­tri­ots didn’t con­cede a goal on the way to win­ning their first Dis­trict 11 cham­pi­onship in 28 years and picked up an­other shutout Tues­day.

Free­dom im­proves to 201-4 on the sea­son and will meet Dis­trict 3’s Wil­son, a penalty kick win­ner over Ro­man Catholic, on Satur­day in the quarterfinals at a site and time to be de­ter­mined.

The best sea­son in Spring-Ford pro­gram his­tory ended 18-3-4 af­ter reach­ing the PIAA play­offs for the first time as the fifth­place fin­isher in Dis­trict 1.

The Rams proved to be one of the most tech­ni­cally skilled teams in the state, but had their dif­fi­cul­ties against teams with a de­fen­sive iden­tity — their un­do­ing in the Pi­o­neer Ath­letic Con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship (Perkiomen Val­ley), Dis­trict 1 semi­fi­nal (Cen­tral Bucks West) and Tues­day night.

“I think that game de­fines our sea­son. Same thing against PV, same in dis­trict semis. We go the long road and just ... crash,” se­nior cap­tain Sal Ibarra said. “I like to say that good teams find a way to win, but we would just hit that hurdle where we just could not get over it.

“We al­most got there, but then that ex­tra hump we couldn’t quite take it home.”

The Rams had eight shots to just two for Free­dom and had the bet­ter of the en­tire match. But Pa­tri­ots goal­keeper Derek Bast com­manded his area ex­cel­lently and was well pro­tected by his de­fense. Bast was cred­ited with six saves but was not tested enough by the Rams’ of­fense, which was too of­ten in­tent on cre­at­ing a per­fect goal in a game where any goal would do — and did.

The Spring-Ford front 3 of Colin Trainor, Brett Gu­lati and Bran­don Duke car­ried a threat as they usu­ally do, but weren’t at their best on a damp, foggy night in Allentown.

“This was the best front 3 we’ve seen all sea­son so we just wanted to limit the qual­ity of their chances,” Reightler said. “We’ve only trailed twice all sea­son so once we got our goal we liked our chances to hold it. This team has given up 8 goals in 25 games and as long as we could keep them to those half chances we could stop them.”

For all the pres­sure Spring-Ford gen­er­ated in the fi­nal 25 min­utes, it never trans­lated into any golden chances.

“I feel like we could have made it far­ther,” se­nior de­fender Gabe Locke said with a rue­ful chuckle. “Hon­estly, I think we out­classed them. They got lucky on the goal, but it is what it is. We gave it our all.”

De­spite the loss, SpringFord play­ing in No­vem­ber was a sig­nif­i­cant step.

“When we had our meet­ings last year, the coaches were ask­ing us what our goals were for this sea­son and we re­ally over­achieved them,” se­nior mid­fielder Johnny Guimaraes said. “We just wanted to win the PAC and get past the first round of dis­tricts. And the coaches were like, ‘We think you can do a lot bet­ter than that.’ But I don’t think we even saw it then.”

They even­tu­ally came to see it, even if it wasn’t as ev­i­dent on the af­ter­math of Tues­day’s hard-luck de­feat.

“This is a hard loss to swal­low be­ing that we con­trolled the large ma­jor­ity of that game,” SpringFord coach Brent Kis­sel said, “but they should hold their heads up high for what they ac­com­plished this sea­son. They sin­gle­hand­edly changed the way the state, dis­trict and PAC thinks about Spring-Ford soc­cer.”

NOTES >> Spring-Ford will lose se­nior starters Guimaraes, Ibarra, Locke, Jake Abruzzo, Ai­den Hudon, goal­keeper Ray For­te­buono and re­serves Nolan Sch­weitzer, An­drew Ni­colo, Myles Bastable and Liam Hun­gate, but seem like a team filled with po­ten­tial. “I think it sets an ex­am­ple for the fol­low­ing years,” Guimaraes said. “We’re ex­cited to see what next year’s team can do. They’re go­ing to be strong.”

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Spring-Ford’s Ai­den Hudon leaps to win the ball against Free­dom.

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