North Allegheny captured its eighth WPIAL Boys soccer title in dramatic fashion, rallying to beat section rivals, and top-seeded Seneca Valley 2-1 in overtime, after a Josh Luchini goal in the late stages of regulation, then a Sean Atwater shot from 22 yards for the game winner in the game’s 90th minute.
Seneca Valley forward Matthew Happ proved to be a nuisance for the Tigers all night long — starting with a nice chance in the 12th minute, finding room on the left side, drilling a low shot on goal, but the Tigers’ keeper Grant Glorioso was there to knock it away.
Happ finished the game with five shots on Glorioso.
In the second half, the Raiders took the lead in the 59th minute, as Cole Dengler redirected a cleared ball back into the box that Matt Stopar beat everyone to the ball, and poked it past Glorioso for the game’s opening goal.
It looked like it might enough for Seneca Valley, which had surrendered only three goals all season.
North Allegheny hung on — battling away more quality Seneca Valley chances, primarily from the speedy Happ, who pressured Glorioso with a few more close range chances from the left side.
At that point, despite Seneca’s tremendous defense, all it would take was one shining moment.
North Allegheny started pressing in the final 10 minutes of regulation including a few dangerous balls and solid work by Ben Cinker.
Finally, the Tigers persistence paid off as Owen Leonard found Josh Luchini, who has been injured for much of the year, in the box in the 78th minute on a long diagonal cross.
Luchini made a nice move to get inside his mark, and deliver a clinical header for the equalizer which sent the huge contingent of fans from North Allegheny in the east side of Highmark Stadium’s stands to pandemonium as the game clock showed only 2:24 remaining.
The final seconds of regulation were played at a furious pace, but for the second consecutive year, the WPIAL’s highest boys soccer classification final would go to extra time thanks to a dramatic late goal at the end of regulation (Canon McMillan rallied last year to beat Fox Chapel, 2-1 in OT only after a goal with one minute left in regulation).
After each team battled back and forth in the first ten minutes of the extra period, Atwater found some space, and delivered a bending shot over the outstretched arms of SV keeper Dylan Good that hit just under the crossbar, and bounced downward. When the referee signaled that it crossed the line — the North Allegheny bench came running onto the field as the team converged on Atwater for the celebration.
It was the third OT winner for the Tigers in the playoffs, and for Atwater, the second straight game he drilled a shot from distance for a game winner, as he beat Pine-Richland with a strike from similar distance to put NA in the final.
Here’s my post-game interview with the junior midfielder — and if you watch to the end — you’ll get to see him get mobbed by his teammates…
It was Seneca Valley’s first-ever trip to the WPIAL finals. The Raiders were a PIAA runner up a year ago, and once again will have to settle for second. They will have their chance at redemption though, again in the PIAA playoffs, as both teams will advance and play Tuesday.
North Allegheny will play section rival Pine-Richland for the fourth time this year on Tuesday (site and location TBA), while Seneca Valley will likely have to head toward Central PA for a game against either District 9 or 10 winners.