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Third Time’s the Charm: South Fayette tops section rival Montour, 4-1

File Photo courtesy of Ed Thompson

Third Time’s the Charm: South Fayette tops section rival Montour, 4-1

WPIAL Boys Class 3A Soccer Playoffs

Final: South Fayette 4, Montour 1

South Fayette reaches the final four for the sixth time in the past nine years. 

The third time was the charm for South Fayette against section rivals Montour.

In the rubber match between the two neighboring schools in the WPIAL Boys Class 3A quarterfinal, Chad Eldridge and Dan Gormleys each scored a pair of goals and Austin Rees’ made eight saves to lift the Lions into the semifinal round.

How It Happened

After a grueling match which went to penalty kicks against Trinity on Saturday, Montour hosted South Fayette, who were coming off a first-round upset of Plum (2-1, OT).

This season, Montour held the series edge. Montour won the first game 1-0 and tied the second game 1-1.

This time would be different as the Lions came out with an attacking, aggressive mentality from the start.

About 15 minutes into the first half, the team’s clashing styles were evident, as Montour was playing into feet well, while South Fayette were playing longer and more direct into their freshman forward, Dan Gormley.

It only took 17 minutes for All-State forward Chad Eldridge to hammer a volley home. As a ball bounced around just outside the box, the lefty Eldridge, who scored earlier this year from outside the box against Montour, sniped one in top right corner.

The rest of the first half played out evenly, with few chances for either side, until the final minute of the first half.

Montour earned a free kick 25 yards from the goal. Despite South Fayette’s best efforts to delay the restart, the ref stopped the clock with just six seconds left. Montour almost found the equalizer as the ball made its way to freshman defender Jaxon Camp, who was wide open on the back post. He got a head on it, but it hit the crossbar.

Instead of Montour heading into the half with some momentum, South Fayette held on to the 1-0 lead.

Then, four minutes into the second half the Lions solidified its lead when Dan Gormley tapped home a cross from Eldridge, who beat a pair of Montour defenders on the right sideline.

Only six minutes later, Eldridge scored again to give South Fayette a commanding 3-0 lead.

This time, it was a header finishing off a pass through the air from Gormley once again.

“Montour doesn’t let you play in behind, they only give you what’s in front, we have to execute to have success against them,” Rob Eldridge, South Fayette’s coach said. “Well, Chad’s first goal was from far out, but his second goal and Gormley’s were in the box. The execution was there.”

In the last 30 minutes, Montour began to play with more urgency, moving players forward. Left back Brock Martindale started to get involved in creating more chances.

In the 65th minute, the Spartans would earn one back. Its team leading goal scorer, senior Jared Gomez slotted a shot past Austin Rees to make it 3-1. Junior forward, Henry Orlandini, who was tied with Gomez for the team lead in goals, would get the recorded assist.

Montour pressed hard for a second goal but came up short.

It was just too late. In the 78th minute, Gormley padded his stats once again as he dribbled down the left hand side and shot the ball off a Montour player into the net.

Despite solid play in the second half from Brock Martindale, Henry Orlandini, Jared Gomez and Jaxon Camp it wasn’t enough for Montour to complete a comeback.

Head coach Stephen Okai’s Spartans would finish the season with a 10-5-1 overall record, and were the only team to beat West Allegheny in the regular season.

It was a solid team effort for the Lions as they’re starting to peak at the right time to reel off a pair of impressive playoff wins.

Ethan Sanders was solid on the back line, helping create the buildup plays into the midfield and forwards in transition. Sam Orecchio quietly played terrific defense in the center of the park, giving Eldridge the ability to move forward. On several occasions in the Plum and Montour game, Orecchio sprinted back to stop the opposition. Colton Lutz and Nick Patel made big plays in the outside back position.

Anchoring South Fayette in the back was goalkeeper Rees.

“We worked on shots from distance and worked a lot on closing down shots from inside the box. We identified that as a problem for Rees the first time we played Montour,” Goalie coach Nolan Levine stated. “He allowed a goal on a breakaway and his approach was wrong. He’s been solid for us all year. He stepped up and made four or five big saves tonight to preserve our lead. It was his best game of the season.”

Montour had more shots on goal in the game with nine.  Rees stood tall as he earned eight crucial saves. The Lions only had five shots on goal, but they made them count and had slightly more impactful chances than the home team.

In two playoff games now, both Chad Eldridge and Dan Gormley have three goals and one assist each.

South Fayette takes on Mars next while West Allegheny faces Franklin Regional.

WPIAL Boys Soccer Scoreboard (10/28/2020): Class 3A Quarterfinals

We are excited for the opportunity to play the top seed in the tourney. Chris Knauff does a great job with his teams and we know we’ll have to be our best to get a result.”

Looking back on some history, under Rob Eldridges’ program, the boys soccer team has made the playoffs nine consecutive years and has made a final four appearance six out of those nine years now.

In Chad’s freshman year they lost in the semis to West Allegheny. He’ll have one more chance to help lead his team to a WPIAL final.

Rob said of his son, “He got it done tonight. Onto the next one.”

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