Luke Campbell | Observer-Reporter
It wasn’t hard to find several players from the Peters Township High School boys soccer team lying on the turf as the final shootout goal was scored Tuesday night by Hempfield’s Austen Goodling.
Filled with only exhaustion after scoring a game-tying goal, cramps ran through the tired legs of the Indians as they held off Hempfield in overtime before being outscored in a shootout, 5-4, and losing to the Black Knights, 3-2, in the PIAA Class 4A semifinals Tuesday night at Mansion Park.
Goodling, the fifth shooter, iced the game and ended Peters Township’s season on a shot to the bottom right of the goal after Hempfield goalkeeper Brady Ross made a diving save earlier in the one-on-one scenario.
“It took a couple of seconds to sink in that I scored, and that we won,” Goodling said. “As the fifth kicker, the pressure is on you. When the ball hit the net and I saw my teammates and guys from the bench sprinting over I knew. It was overwhelming.”
It looked bleak for the Indians for much of the second half despite controlling possession as Hempfield, the District 3 champion, was content with clearing the ball with a 2-1 lead it built in the first half.
That was until a Peters Township set piece from the 13-yard line, started by Brian Bruzdewicz, who kicked a ball into the box and eventually found the toe of Bryce Gabelhart. Gabelhart tapped it into the yawning net to deadlock the score at 2-2 with 17:20 left in regulation.
“Our leadership stepped up and realized that they were in a situation where they didn’t want to turn their uniforms in,” said Peters Township head coach Bobby Dyer. “They weren’t ready to go home. The second half was great. The overtime was great. We competed. Despite all the injuries and cramping, we had a chance to win the game. Their keeper just made a great save on the line.”
Peters Township (19-2-1) was forced to play catch-up all night after its calling card – long throw-ins near the box – turned out to be its kryptonite.
The Black Knights scored on two long throws. A right-footed, seeing-eye shot on a bouncing ball from the waistline of Ryan Hepler that found the upper-right corner of the goal to give Hempfield a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
Then, after a Logan Brinksy goal knotted the score at 1-1 only five minutes later, the Black Knights regained the lead with a goal from Jake Suchar after Peters Township failed to clear.
“It hasn’t been a strong point of ours all season. It’s been something we’ve tried to work on,” Dyer said about the long throw-in set pieces.
“We didn’t do a good job tonight. You have to be able to get the ball out.”
As the waning moments of regulation trickled off the clock, Peters Township was in an all-out-attack mode to get the game-winner, having the Indians’ corner defenseman pinching up to force pressure and keep the ball in their possession.
“We tried,” Dyer said about the desperation exerted to try to score a game-deciding goal in regulation.
“We knew that gas was going to be a problem for us. That’s also who we are and how we’ve played all season.”
Pressing the gas pedal in overtime was Hempfield (23-4-1), which took advantage of the injured Indians on the sideline from prior games or the continuous chasing they had to do just to get to extra time.
But Peters Township goalkeeper Derek Deyarmin made sure the game would continue into the late-night hours. Deyarmin stepped out and the Indians’ defense defended several corner kicks by Hempfield in both overtime sessions.
“They are playing in a program where expectations are so high,” Dyer said about his team of 13 seniors. “They don’t realize how hard it is to get to this point. They’ve worked hard their whole lives to be part of this. When you put that much into it, it hurts. It’s a great lesson for them in life to continue to invest in what they want to do.”