Jason Mackey | Observer Reporter
When the Canon-McMillan High School boys soccer team was handed the 13th seed for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs, it’s no secret the Big Macs thought they deserved better, with four one-goal losses to the tournament’s top two seeds, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair.
But after an improbable run through the playoffs, turns out it probably was an argument worth listening to. Jake Wilcox and Ivan Viveros scored second-half goals to lift Canon-McMillan to a 2-1 victory over rival Peters Township in the WPIAL semifinals at Baldwin Wednesday night.
“When you’re seeded as low as we were, the only place you can go is up,” Wilcox said. “The motivation of everyone telling you that you can’t do it just makes you want to do it that much more. Then we just did it.”
The win means the Big Macs will play for the WPIAL title against No. 2 Upper St. Clair Saturday, site and time to be determined. Canon-McMillan will try to become the first local team other than Peters Township to win WPIAL gold since Trinity in 1974. Canon-McMillan, which has already won the most games in program history (17), will now accomplish two more firsts in playing for WPIAL and PIAA gold.
“We told the kids that we couldn’t have written a better story for ourselves,” head coach Larry Fingers said. The Big Macs controlled play throughout much of this one, dominating the first 70 minutes before Sean Baxendale scored from about eight yards to give the Indians (14-2-2) life in the 74th minute.
“They beat us to the ball consistently for the first 70 minutes of the game, and that won the game,” said Peters Township coach Bob Dyer, whose team will have to beat Pine-Richland on Saturday to reach the PIAA playoffs. “For the last 10 minutes we played with a sense of urgency, the same sense of urgency that they played with for the first 70 minutes.”
Wilcox put Canon-Mc-Millan on the board in the game’s 42nd minute after the rebound from his own shot hit the far post and bounced right back to him. Given a second chance, Wilcox slid a shot in the right corner of the goal.
“It hit the post, came back, and I saw an open goal and thought, ‘This can’t be happening,’ ” Wilcox said. “I just slid it by. It’s never been that easy. I mean, it wasn’t easy, but I’ve never seen a goal that open.”
Viveros made it a 2-0 game when he finished a cross in the 47th minute. “It was on a throw-in,” Viveros explained. “They missed it; I saw my chance, and I used the inside of my foot to push it through.”
The win comes after a pair of 1-0 losses to Peters Township this season for Canon-McMillan – one that came on an own goal. After time expired, Canon-McMillan (17-4) drenched Fingers with water and went through several celebratory rituals. They were even told they could show up for school at 11 a.m. today.
“We felt confident coming into the game,” said Fingers, who’s been growing a playoff beard. “Now we have to regroup and hopefully not spend all of our energy celebrating this win.”