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Lion-Sized Upset: Eldridge’s golden goal lifts South Fayette to overtime win at Plum

File photo courtesy Jared Todhunter
WPIAL Boys Class 3A Soccer Playoffs

Final: South Fayette 2, Plum 1 (OT) 

On a cool Saturday at Plum High School, one of the top contenders in the WPIAL Boys 3A bracket is done for the fall.

South Fayette upset hosts Plum in an overtime thriller, winning 2-1 on Saturday afternoon in the first round of the WPIAL Boys Class 3A playoffs. After Plum scored late in the second half, Chad Eldridge’s golden goal early in the first overtime period advances the Lions onto the quarterfinal, where they’ll take on section rivals Montour

How It Happened

Coming into this game, South Fayette’s veteran coach, Rob Eldridge knew Plum was one of the best teams in the tournament — and craft a unique game-plan to counter Plum’s dangerous attacking options.  In this match, the Lions came out in a 4-3-3 formation.

“We wanted to control the midfield centrally. We covered the midfield with a libero and tucked in our wingers to jam their fullback play,” Eldridge said.

Throughout the game, the Lions subbed out their wingers every 10 or 15 minutes to stay fresh.

Under Eldridge’s program, defense is important and that starts from the top of its formation through the back. In this match, the Lions used Brent Goldstrom to continuously mark Plum’s top forward, DD Flowers all game.

The first half consisted of chances for both sides. But, no one was really close to scoring.

Plum had more of the possession. The ball was skipping hard so it was important for the players to find feet.

As the scoreless match entered the second half Daniel Gormley scored off a defensive miscue on the Plum side just five minutes in. He took the ball of a defender, dribbled to the right of the goalie, Gabe Kuhn and slotted it into the net.

Over the next 10 minutes South Fayette made some mistakes that almost cost them this game — and Plum started to play more on the front foot.

Ethan Sanders took too long on a free kick and was given a yellow card. A bit later, the goalie Austin Rees took way too long to punt the ball and was also given a yellow card. Both players had to sit for at least five minutes. SF looked like they were folding, as they were giving up many free kicks in their defensive zone. During that period, Chad Eldridge sat back on defense for Sanders, and Dylan Janoski played in net for Rees.

The remaining 25 minutes of the half, Plum continued to play with a great sense of urgency.

In the 70th minute, Plum got one back.

Lucas Pittman took a free kick near the corner on the right side. He played a beautiful cross that DD Flowers headed in.

It was Flowers’ 13th goal of the season. Not too long after, the Lions almost let in another as Flowers made another great individual play, chipping the ball over Rees. It was Colton Lutz that would be the hero for the Lions. He ran back and stopped the ball on the goal line from going in. He saved their season.

Onto overtime, the Lions needed a break as Plum was pouring it on. It would only take three minutes for the coach’s son Chad Eldridge to finish it off. He fought for a loose ball in the 6 yard box, juggled itt down and shot it home with his left foot. The home crowd was silenced, and the Lions bench stormed the field to celebrate.

Lucas Pittman and Luke Kolankowski played an impressive game in the midfield for Plum. DD Flowers was their most dangerous player. If only, he was on the ball a bit more, he would have created more dangerous chances.

On paper it was an upset, as South Fayette, fourth place team in Class 3A, Section 2, was seeded 13th in the 16 team field. Plum’s coach, Raf Kolankowski knew very well this would be tough match for the Section 4 co-champions.

“They are a very good team,” Kolankowski said after the match. “We had our moments, but mistakes in the back will cost you games.”

It’s the Lions who move onto the quarterfinal and face familiar foes Montour on Wednesday for the third time this season.

Video Postgame Interview with South Fayette’s Rob Eldridge & Chad Eldridge 

Jordan joined the Pittsburgh Soccer Now team in 2020 as a contributor to Riverhounds SC & WPIAL coverage. He also just obtained a MBA at Point Park University while being the Graduate Assistant in the Athletics department. Jordan, during his undergrad four years at La Roche University, interned and worked part time for every pro team and several universities in Pittsburgh: Riverhounds SC, Pirates, University of Pittsburgh, La Roche University, Duquesne University, Steelers and the Penguins. With all of these experiences he began to gain a passion to work in sports as a career. Smith played cup soccer for Century United and Beadling during his youth years and also trained with the Riverhounds. He attended South Fayette High School where he helped his team win WPIAL's and a section title his senior year in 2015, while earning All-Section and All-WPIAL honors.

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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