Times Chronicle & Public Spirit
Wissahickon throws it all in to win against Hatboro-Horsham
AMBLER >> Ryan Dowdy wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass him by.
The Wissahickon sophomore had not yet scored a goal this season but there, with a bit less than five minutes left Thursday against Hatboro-Horsham, was the ball up for grabs in front of the net. Leaning his shoulder into a defender, Dowdy raised his right boot and caught the ball mid-bounce.
Two goals off long throwins helped the Trojans edge the Hatters 2-1 in a feisty duel at Wiss to begin the second leg of SOL Liberty play.
“It’s called ‘framing the goal,’ you basically sit in behind and wait for that lucky bounce,” Dowdy said. “It’s all about whether or not you want to go attack it or not to put it in the back of the net.”
Dowdy’s efforts to get to the ball that led to the winning goal all but summed up Wissahickon’s play on Thursday and their script for the remainder of the season. A rash of injuries early in the season depleted the Trojans down to about half of their expected starting lineup, but they’re getting healthy at the right time.
However, not having a full roster also took a toll on the team’s record. Entering play with a .500 record and several spots out of a District 1-4A playoff bid on Thursday, the Trojans need every result they can get but will have opportunities against a division that had four teams in the playoff field including the Hatters.
“It was a chance to restart,” senior Blake McClintic, who had the long throws that led to both Wiss goals, said. “We got some guys back, we got one of our center backs off an injury, we still have a couple out injured but it’s really promising to get these guys back who were key to our success last year.”
Hatboro-Horsham, which dropped its second straight game, responded well after going down 1-0 but in general, the Hatters were off the pace on Thursday. Defensively, they had to account for five Wiss corners on top of a bevy of long throw-ins by McClintic that taxed their marking and ability to clear the ball while on the other end, the final ball remained elusive.
All three goals in the match came off restarts, two long throws for the hosts and a free-for-all on the doorstep following a Hatters free kick which HH coach Kyle McGrath noted can be an equalizer in a high school game. Whether it was his forwards getting called offside or the ball bogging down, McGrath just felt his team lacked a sharpness in the final third.
“We weren’t great offensively, a couple runs too early or not checking back to the ball hard enough and that leads to constant pressure on us the entire first half,” McGrath said. “We’re good defensively but when you defend that much eventually you’re going to break.
“That’s high school soccer, right, set piece goals and throw-in goals. For the most part this year, we’ve done very well on those but tonight we got punished for first, kicking the ball out so much and second, not defending well enough on two of them.”
McClintic, a co-captain and a fullback on defense, is basically a mobile set piece when the Trojans get within a certain range in the opponent’s defensive third. The senior has a long throw that often finds the box but in the first half, he didn’t have the right targets to throw to.
Defender Jack O’Donnell, a towering center back, kept hanging back on throws not wanting to give up a counter to the Hatters. Wiss coach Stuart Malcolm fixed that by imploring the big senior to get into the box early in the second half.
The move paid off when McClintic tossed one into the box that found O’Donnell rising into the sky for a header that put the hosts up 1-0 with 30 minutes to play.
“We made our adjustments on the long throw,” McClintic said. “We had people in the box and on the keeper, doing the right things and winning second balls.
“We like to have our targets be our center backs, they have a height advantage on pretty much every other team so we play off them.”
Senior Jake Freedman was a workhorse for the Hatters in the midfield and he served as a distraction on the free kick that helped the visitors tie the score about 10 minutes later. With the ball positioned about 25 yards out from the goal, Hatboro-Horsham ran a mis-direct that led to a scramble of feet in front of the net where Matt Wingen ultimately poked in the equalizer.
“We kind of ran out of ideas offensively tonight, it’s something where we just have to get better in the final third,” McGrath said.
Wiss keeper Eric McDevily also had a role in limiting the Hatters with the senior making a couple of tremendous saves including taking a rip by JR Fulginiti off his sternum in the first half and a diving denial to stop a take by the Hatters’ Logan Clayton.
Late in the game, the Hatters had to boot another ball out deep in their own end and gave McClintic another runway to fling a ball into the box. O’Donnell was again the target, with the defender able to get a glancing header that bounced hard off the turf in front of several players and found space with Dowdy fighting off a defender to get there first.
“What I’m thinking about before the game and as the game is going is my seniors and how crucial this game is for our season,” Dowdy said. “I know if I put it in and work hard and run hard for them, then in the future my sophomores and juniors will run hard for me. I hope to give them a playoff run and I knew this game was crucial so I wanted to run in and put that ball in the net.” 0 2 — 2 0 1 — 1