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By Alex Frazier
The scenario was the usual.
The defense shuts down the opposition, and the offense gets just enough goals to win.
Central Bucks East has managed to use that formula with so much success that the Patriots will be playing in Tuesday’s PIAA state semifinal game against the winner of the Peters Township-Fox Chapel game. Expect a long drive. Last year C.B. East and Peters Township met in the quarterfinals in Chambersburg.
Saturday, the East defense allowed just four shots, two of them coming in a span of a few seconds and got a pair of goals from reliable Alex Shubert and Sean Peckham to oust Lampeter-Strasburg in the PIAA state quarterfinals, 2-0.
The Pioneers were the third seed from District Three and mark the second District Three team in a row that the Patriots dominated.
“We were in control early, but we couldn’t finish,” said coach Mike Gorni. “Mike Whittaker, Mike Vare, John Owens, Chris Eisold and Ryan Apt were the difference today. They defended well and got us into the attack. Now it’s up to the guys up top to produce.”
Of course, the two leading scorers on the team are Shubert and Peckham, and they continue to produce even as the competition gets tougher.
While Shubert is a constant up top, Gorni has been running in five other players to keep their legs fresh.
“They should be finishing,” he said.
The East defense recorded its 16th shutout of the year, while goalie Jake Pickering picked up his 35th scoreless game in two years.
“We have to work hard,” said East stopper Ryan Apt. “The defense is strong. Every game we come in confident. We even have to be a little arrogant to keep the ball from going into the net.”
Gorni especially remarked on Apt’s heads-up play.
“He ate everything up in the air today,” he said.
At the start, it appeared as though the game would be a blowout, but the Patriots could only capitalize on one of eight attempts and that was an inadvertent own-goal. In the 21st minute, Alex Thompson headed Peckham’s corner kick off the crossbar. The deflection went to Shubert, who blasted a shot, which ricocheted off a Lampeter defender and into the net with 21:31 left to play in the first half.
While East dominated in shots, there were also many other opportunities with the ball in the box that were never turned into shots.
Six minutes into the game, Mike Whitaker headed a direct kick on goal. The keeper bobbled it, but no one was there to poke it in.
Lampeter-Strasburg had one great chance, which it also couldn’t convert, thanks to the heads-up play of East keeper Jake Pickering. Eight minutes into the game, a ball was sent ahead to the Pioneers’ Antonio Bua. He collected it behind the East defense and dribbled in on Pickering all alone. Pickering came out, cutting down the angle, and blocked Bua’s shot. The ball deflected to Ben Demora, who fired it wide right.
“Pick made a great save on that counter,” said Gorni.
Those were the only shots East allowed in the entire first half.
Pickering also made another good save, when he leaped and punched away a high bouncer near the head of Andrew Jordan at the right post in the 25th minute.
Lampeter nearly tied the game at the beginning of the second half.
Bua took a long shot from the left side that looked like it would surely tuck inside the right post. But the ball curled inward too much, and Pickering stretched out and deflected it wide of the goal.
In the last 15 minutes, the Pioneers began mounting an attack and putting pressure on the East defense, which was without Owens, who broke his nose in the first half. He played for the first 20 minutes of the second with a nose guard, but came out with just under 20 minutes left.
East escaped a penalty kick with just over 10 minutes left when a ball hit Whitaker in the hand inside the box. While everyone was shouting for a PK, the ref said it was unintentional and let it pass, according to Apt.
“We got the good call,” he said.
A successful PK would have tied the game, and then who knows what might have happened.
As it turned out, it didn’t matter when Peckham took a deflected shot by Evan Franco and fired it into the left corner with 6:21 left.
“It was a good feeling after I scored,” he said. “I felt the game was ours. Their will was shot.”
“We knew we’d sealed the deal,” said Apt.
And as Peckham noted, the Pioneers were listless in the final minutes of the game as the East defense shut the door.
“Our defense is always solid,” he said. “We get one and they hold on.”
“We made the game harder than it should have been,” said Gorni. “We live dangerously sometimes.”
It was another barnburner for Neshaminy in a re-match of the District One semifinals against Lower Merion at Central Bucks West. The Aces were looking for a little revenge after losing to Neshaminy 3-1 in penalty kicks.
“It certainly was entertaining,” said Neshaminy coach Rich Reice.
And it appeared as though the Aces were well on their way of doing it as they commanded a 2-0 lead at the intermission.
“Even though we were down two, we probably had the better chances,” said Reice.
But Neshaminy has a way of lulling the opposition into over-confidence.
In the second half, Zach Turchi pulled the Redskins to within one with a long shot from the flank that the Lower Merion keeper mishandled.
Then late in the game, just as he had done in the first meeting, Dan Foley scored from about eight yards out to send the game into overtime.
“It shows a lot about the character of the kids,” said Reice. “They’re pretty resilient and don’t give up and work through whatever adversity comes our way.”
After two scoreless periods, the decision would go to penalty kicks. Reice switched up the order slightly by putting Foley first. Both teams scored the first one and missed the second. Neshaminy made the third, while the Aces missed. After both teams notched their fourth attempt, Bob Shegda, who by the way hasn’t missed a PK all season, stepped to the line and fired in the game winner, just like he had done the first time.
Neshaminy will play the winner of the Downingtown West-Manheim Township game Tuesday, most likely at West Chester East, and possibly as part of a doubleheader.
Central Bucks East 2, Lampeter-Strasburg 0
Goals: Alex Shubert (CBE), Sean Peckham (CBE)
Assists: Alex Thompson (CBE), Evan Franco (CBE)
Shots: Lampeter-Strasburg 4, Central Bucks East 15
Saves: Adam Steller (L-S) 9, Jake Pickering (CBE) 2
Corners: Lampeter-Strasburg 0, Central Bucks East 4
Fouls: Lampeter Strasburg 16, Central Bucks East 8