BOYS SOCCER: Defense leads the way

Spring-Ford+competes+against+Perkiomen+Valley+in+a+match+earlier+this+season.+The+Rams+enjoyed+a+successful+fall+that+saw+them+reach+the+District+One+playoffs.+

BAUMANN

Spring-Ford competes against Perkiomen Valley in a match earlier this season. The Rams enjoyed a successful fall that saw them reach the District One playoffs.

Andrew Eross, Staff Writer

Defense was the motto behind the 2020 Spring-Ford boys soccer team.

Playing all the way to the District One semifinals, the Rams allowed just three playoff goals in three matches due to their stellar defense. It took a double-overtime setback to district runner-up Pennridge to end their stellar season. 

In district play, good teams advance because they play sound defense, don’t make as many mistakes as the other team and they capitalize on their opportunities to score,” Spring-Ford coach Brent Kissel said. “We found a way to do those things and do them well at the end of the season and in districts.”

While the Rams fell just one win short of a PAC title and two games from a District championship, the team surely finished with a remarkable season thanks to a superior defensive performance.

The Rams (9-5-1, 7-4-1) just missed the program’s first Pioneer Athletic Conference title since 2013, finishing a game behind league champion Boyertown (8-5, 8-4).

As a consolation for Spring-Ford, the Rams began and ended the Bears’ season with victories.

The Rams kicked off their year with a 3-1 victory over the 2019 (and now 2020) PAC champs.

Scoring in the match was headlined by three second-half goals from seniors Tommy Bodenshatz, Colton Pollock, and Andrew Merchant, respectively. Additionally, this was the first showing of the impeccable Rams defense, as they kept the Bears scoreless until the 75th minute. Junior keeper James Needles held strong, totaling five saves in six shots on goal. 

In order to win this crucial matchup, the Rams had to make use of the little team preparation they had in unfortunate circumstances. 

Usually we start the season with two scrimmages and at least one non-league game before starting PAC competition to get those first-game jitters and inconsistencies out of the way,” Kissel said. “So having to start a new season against the pre-season favorite in the PAC — away at their place was not ideal.”

A key piece of focus heading into pivotal matchup was the Rams’ defense, but with dedication an area of weakness miraculously flipped into the team’s greatest strength.

We discussed the importance of strong team defense being critical to beating them,” Kissel said. “Our defense was a weakness in 2019, so that was something we worked on in our preseason training.” 

However, the overarching advantage the Rams had over the Bears was their heart. After losing to the Bears three times in the year prior, Spring-Ford  was determined not to lose again. 

The other factor and maybe most important for the team was the revenge,” Kissel said. “We lost to them three times in 2019 and the guys weren’t going to let there be a fourth.”

Notable games of the season include an Oct. 17 battle against OJR, where Andrew Merchant’s hat trick salvaged the Rams a victory, and freshman keeper Logan Hyduke was credited with his first varsity victory.

The Rams’ 7-4-1 record netted them the ninth seed in the District One Tournament, where they had to face none other than Boyertown in the preliminary round.

After taking one of two games against the Bears in regular-season play, the Rams put forth a consistent defensive effort led by Shlok Shah, who made several crucial clearances in part of a 1-0 shutout. The only goal in this affair was courtesy of senior Colton Pollock off a rebound from a powerful strike by Andrew Merchant.

In district play, good teams advance because they play sound defense, don’t make as many mistakes as the other team and they capitalize on their opportunities to score. We found a way to do those things and do them well at the end of the season and in districts.”

— Brent Kissel, Spring-Ford boys soccer coach

The formidable Rams defense would additionally carry them through a district quarterfinal win, with Spring-Ford registering a second straight 1-0 shutout, this time against top-seeded West Chester East.

An injury to keeper Logan Hyduke gave junior Eric Morarity a chance to step up and start in a monumental match. Expectations were high, and Moriarity lived up to them.

Totaling eight saves, including a spectacular lunging swat against a penalty kick, Moriarity paved the way for the team’s second straight clean sheet. A Justin Russell strike deflecting down off the crossbar broke the 0-0 tie for a Rams win.

Unfortunately, a tough Spring-Ford defeat against Pennridge in the district semifinals abruptly ended the remarkable season. Logan Hyduke’s remarkable play carried the team to double overtime, however a Pennridge penalty kick ended the scoreless affair and Spring-Ford’s season. 

Coach Kissel commented on the exceptional resilience displayed by the Rams, as they battled from preseason throughout the end of districts.

“It was unlike any season I have ever played or coached in,” Kissel said. “We usually are doing summer leagues and training sessions end of June early July.  With COVID, we weren’t able to even get on a field until around mid/late July and then we had to stay in pods for contact tracing. 

“I would consistently tell the team that if they wanted to play this season a lot of it was up to them and how they behaved and acted away from training. “

Kissel’s Rams were locked in from the start, a key in their successes. They allowed no distraction from the outside world to alter their play on the pitch.

This year’s senior class was special, headlined by All-Area and All-PAC First Team players Tommy Bodenschatz and Andrew Merchant, All PAC Second Team players Connor Lynch and Ekow Asomaning, as well as Matt Dunne, Akshai Patel, Shlok Shah, Ryan Miller, Brian Zisk, Trevor Jones, Ben Goldberg, Nick DiNenna, Colton Pollock, and Jake Fair. Coach Kissel will surely be proud of his graduating players and their impact on this program.

“Having seniors on a team always increases the chances to have a successful season,” he said. “They have the experience, speed, and size advantage against most teams. 

This senior group was a special one because they had been a part of so many successful seasons as underclassmen.  They knew what it took to get to that next level and they were not going to be denied.  They battled through adversity during the season with some uncharacteristic losses but came out on top in the end.”