It wasn’t the prettiest game.
But it was sweet redemption for the Montour boys soccer team, who earned its first ever berth in the WPIAL 3A Boys soccer final by defeating neighboring rivals Chartiers Valley 2-1 early in the first overtime on Saturday.
“It was hard fought high school soccer,” Alex Hobbs, Montour coach said. “Both teams battled. You have to be athletic, have to win one-v-one battles, we did that. We adjusted and had a lot of success getting wide. We said going into the overtime, we want to celebrate the passer. Who’s the guy who’s going to give the ball up in that situation, and ironically, that’s exactly what happened.”
Four minutes into the over time period, after a free kick was played into the goal box, a battle for the ball ensued, and Brandon Wagner somehow got a good enough first touch on the ball in the box surrounded by a bunch of Colts defenders. Wagner found a wide open Gunner Graham by the far post sitting there all by himself, unmarked.
“It’s all we ever wanted, and now that we did it, that’s why we’re so emotional,” Wagner said immediately after the match. ”
I saw the ball land at my feet, and I saw the opportunity to make the cross — and saw it go in the goal, and can’t believe it happened. You’re so tired, you’re so beat, but you feel like a brand new man.”
Last year, Chartiers Valley knocked off Montour, 2-1 in overtime on its way to winning its first WPIAL title in 15 years. This time, Montour returned the favor.
Despite Montour playing well enough to win for the first 68 minutes, the Colts found an equalizer after a wild sequence in front of the goal and then an equally wild scenario on the penalty kick that followed.
First, a host of players converged after Chartiers Valley played a ball into goal box area by the right post. As the ball arrived in the air, Spartans keeper Bryan Duggan ran into a Chartiers player, then quickly the ball was knocked into the goal — as the Chartiers Valley fans cheered wildly.
While both players laid on the ground injured, the officials huddled and ultimately decided to award the Colts with a penalty kick.
On the penalty kick, Baxter Ekenrode stepped up to take it — but his shot to the right of goal was stopped by Duggan — but Ekenrode hustled to the rebound and put it in goal for the equalizer.
The final 12 minutes of regulation ended with a lot of long balls being played to see if either side’s back line would crack, but both held firm.
The Spartans earned the game’s opening goal in the 60th minute, after the teams played a disjointed, scoreless first half, with Montour putting most of the pressure on Chartiers Valley keeper James Moore on numerous crosses, while the Colts settled for shots from distance.
Chartiers Valley’s season is not over, they’ll be playing on Wednesday in the WPIAL 3rd place game that will decide the third 3A team that goes on to the PIAA state playoffs.
As for Montour, they’ll have a chance to win its first-ever boys soccer WPIAL championship.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Hobbs said. “We lost to them last year 2-1, and they went on to win WPIAL. At the end of the day, we’re ecstatic, we knew that as long as we worked out butts off, play our game, which is keep the ball on the ground, which was tough today in the conditions, we’re happy about that.”
The ecstatic coach couldn’t hide his excitement, even under his cool demeanor.
“For me as a coach, on this journey, it was right we played Chartiers Valley. This is our progression. These are not isolated events. We learned our lessons, and we’ve moved on. It’s a battle in the WPIAL. A lot of people outside of Pittsburgh don’t understand a lot about WPIAL soccer, WPIAL sports in general, in this communities, you saw a great crowd today, it’s so special. Maybe I’m small minded, but winning the WPIAL is the greatest dream of mine as a coach.”