Note: This article originally published in The Reporter and on PaPrepLive.com
FRANCONIA >> Offense is held at a premium in soccer, and rightfully so. There are plenty of ways to score, but finding the key that unlocks a defense can be difficult — especially in the PIAA Class AA playoffs. Once a team finds something that works, they had better stick to it. Lansdale Catholic did exactly that Tuesday afternoon.
LC got a hat trick from Noah Saba, all on the counter attack, and held on late to secure a 3-2 victory over Biglerville in the first round of the PIAA Class AA boys soccer playoffs.
“The boys were working real well this week in practice. One of them was getting to the goal quick,” Lansdale Catholic head coach Joe Wilson said. “(Biglerville) gave us a few opportunities through the middle… Noah was there several times today and just did a great job going to the goal and finishing it.”
Saba got the scoring started after a sleepy start from both teams on a school off day. The play started with a Biglerville corner, but LC keeper Jack Kane secured that and threw a perfect outlet pass to Saba. One give-and-go with Josh Yurasits later and the score was 1-0 Crusaders in the 19th minute.
“Me and Josh, I thought we were faster than their defense,” Saba said. “I definitely knew we could run past them…my teammates fed me great balls and I just put them away.”
Biglerville got one right back however, tying the score at one about 30 seconds later. Conner Griest, who played big and physical all match long, teed up a ball and cracked one past Kane.
“I just knew we had to get one back,” Griest said. “I just have it everything I had, pulled a shot, kind of got lucky and it went in.”
Saba made sure his team would take a lead into halftime with another counter-attack goal, this time in the 32nd minute. The senior got the Biglerville keeper to come out high and slid a side-footed shot into the bottom left corner.
“I would look up and he was out kind of far… every time I kept it low I scored,” Saba said about his scoring. “So I just had to keep looking up and keep my head up when I was shooting.”
Saba scored what proved to be the game-winner with five minutes to go in the match, and it appeared to be the easiest of the three. With Biglerville pushing high, looking for an equalizer, Saba flew around the defense and again beat to keeper low to secure the hat trick.
“That’s exactly what we needed,” Wilson said about Saba’s performance. “We talked about it in practice and he told me before this game even started he was gonna get it done. He delivered it.”
Biglerville again proved to be resilient, as they were all match long, in the 78th minute when Jared Dotson-Jones scored a goal off a rebound.
“They are a high-scoring machine between (Dotson-Jones) and (Griest), the way they work in combinations together, they’re really deadly,” Wilson said.
The combination didn’t lead to a victory for the Canners, but it did lead to some tense closing moments for the Crusaders.
“I knew with the tenacity that our boys have that they would not let it happen again. They held it off all the way to the end,” Wilson said. “Very proud of the boys with their effort on that.”
In addition to starting the first goal, Kane was solid in goal all afternoon for Lansdale Catholic.
“Jack Kane is a phenomenal keeper and he came away with some really big plays today, but that’s what Jack does,” Wilson sad. “He’s a big playmaker and he has the ability to come up when you need it done.”
That rang especially true with the score 2-1 and about 20 minutes to play, when Biglerville made its strongest push for an equalizer. Kane made two point-blank saves in the span of about a minute to keep his team ahead.
“Jack Kane, I’ve been playing with him since like eighth grade, he’s one of my best friends, and he played amazing today,” Saba said. “All credit goes to (the defense) too. They kept us in the game.”
Kane finished the match with six saves.
Up next for LC is the winner of a match between Scranton Prep and Salisbury. Each team won its district tournament, as did the Crusaders.
“The last three years we lost in the first round, but it felt different this year,” Saba said. “When we won a regional championship I said ‘we should be a feared team going into states,’ and I think we just proved that again today. We should be feared and I think we can go far.”
Lansdale Catholic 3, Biglerville 2
BIGLERVILLE 1 1 – 2
LANSDALE CATHOLIC 2 1 – 3
Goals: LC – Noah Saba 19’, Saba 32’, Saba 75’. B – Conner Griest 20’, Jared Dotson-Jones 78’.
Assists: LC — Josh Yurasits. B – NONE. Shots: LC 4, Biglerville 8.
Saves:LC – Jack Kane 6. B – Noah Mattson 1.
Corners: LC – 7, B – 3.