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Blame it on the Reign: Big Macs overcome weather, Mt. Lebanon for 3rd title of decade

Canon-Mac players celebrate its third WPIAL title this decade - photo by Ed Thompson

PITTSBURGH — Fueled by their team motto, “We Over Me,” the Canon-McMillan boys’ soccer team, which hadn’t beaten Mount Lebanon in two previous meetings this season, found a way past its section rivals when it mattered most.

“We always pick one at the beginning of the season. We decided we were going to stick together, and not play as individuals, and that’s where ‘We’ came from,” junior forward Joseph Fonagy said.

The Big Macs (15-3-1) rallied past the Blue Devils (15-5-1) in extra time, 3-2, to capture the WPIAL Boys’ Class 4A championship on a chilly, misty Thursday night at Highmark Stadium.

To capture its third district title over a span of eight seasons, Canon-Mac came from behind in the last minute of regulation, just as it had in 2015.

“We’ve had to play through a lot of adversity this year,” said Kyle Gladden. “We just know that you play together as a team, you win together. That’s the most important value a team can have.”

“We changed some things this time around. And then, we changed them again. A couple guys coming off injuries took some time off, and we moved some guys around,” said head coach Larry Fingers. “We know the team, they’re a good team, and, fortunately or unfortunately, we may see them again.”

In addition, both teams have qualified for the PIAA tournament, with sites, dates and matchups to be announced.

ED THOMPSON PHOTO GALLERY (Canon-Mac rallies to beat Mt. Lebanon)

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Defender Kyle Katreeb left the ball for fellow senior Gladden, and with 62 seconds to play, the midfielder found enough room above the box to launch a 35-yard rocket that went bar down past outstretched goalkeeper Steven Vines, sent half the crowd into delirium and sent the match to a 15-minute, golden-goal overtime.

“Kyle was at right back and won the ball on a tackle at midfield and just sort of found my feet through an open slot, said Gladden. “I just hit it top left, and I had a good touch to frame.”

“We just moved a couple guys forward, which we’d done before,” Fingers said. “It’s something we know how to do, we just had to know when to pull the trigger.”

Canon-McMillan would only need 2:06. That’s how long it took Gladden, from deep on the right wing, to leave a cross for Fonagy, whose leaping header beat Vines to make the Big Macs the first South Hills champion of 4A since the WPIAL expanded boys’ soccer to four classifications.

“I just saw Lukie cross the ball in, and I knew I’d be the first to it,” said Fonagy, playing on a yellow card issued near the midpoint of the second half.

“Once we got that second goal, I knew we were going to get that third right away and end the game.”

Scoring in the run of play proved difficult to come by for both sides, even though the Big Macs tilted the field for much of the first half. Lebo was an opportunistic bunch, and until Gladden’s thing of beauty, it looked like the second of two set piece goals might decide the title.

In the 63rd minute, a long, indirect free kick by Giuseppe Croce bounced off the chest of Canon-McMillan’s Alex Hilbert, and junior midfielder Brady Napoleon got in front of his man and tapped it past the prone keeper, inside the near post.

Canon-Mac broke the ice in the 11th minute, when senior defender Thomas Samosky crashed the crease and got Vines to cough up a rebound that he was able to just tuck inside the near post.

Mount Lebanon answered in the 27th, making good on an indirect free kick from the midfield stripe. The Blue Devils calmly set up towering senior Danny Simboro at the top of the 18-yard box, his turnaround shot going past a diving Hilbert.

However, it was only a matter of time before memories of Canon-McMillan shortcomings in past playoff runs were erased.

“It feels nice to finally win one myself, but it’s great for the program,” Fonagy said.

Now that program will pursue Canon-McMillan’s first state crown in boys’ soccer. Neighborhood rival Peters Township was the last WPIAL school to capture a PIAA crown in the highest classification, back in 2014.

“With this team, you never know,” said Gladden. “Anything can happen, we’re such a resilient bunch. It just feels great to go out on a win.”

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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