For the third straight year in the WPIAL boys highest classification soccer final, a 1-0 lead would be lost by way of another dramatic finish in the game’s final minutes.
Lightning struck twice for North Allegheny in the 73rd and 75th minutes — scoring two goals to stun previously unbeaten Peters Township for a 2-1 win that would catapult the Tigers to back-to-back WPIAL titles and its 10th all-time district championship at Highmark Stadium on Thursday night.
For North Allegheny, who followed a similar script against another unbeaten team — Seneca Valley in the 2016 final by getting a late goal, then a golden goal in overtime — it was like deja vu all over again.
“I was confident and calm almost the whole game. You get nervous at the end, because you start to think, how long is this going to take? Sometimes it’s a lucky bounce, sometimes it’s an own goal, no one says in the rules it has to be pretty,” Bobby Vosmear, North Allegheny head coach, said. “In some ways, you can force your own luck. It’s referee’s calls. It’s this, it’s that — no excuses whatsoever. But, this is a fantastic group – they did it — so all the glory to them.”
And this time, the Tigers had some luck after trailing for most of the match.
Trailing 1-0 in the 73rd minute, after North Allegheny goalkeeper Grant Glorioso received a pass back and quickly boomed a long ball all the way across the Highmark Stadium pitch to the edge of the penalty box area. As the ball lined toward the goal, Peters’ defender Moritz Woelk backtracked reaching back with his foot to attempt to to redirect the ball away from goal. At the same time, Peters’ keeper, Derek Deyarmin came out to play the incoming ball, and got caught in no-man’s land when the redirected ball sailed above his head toward the goal. Deyarmin made a last ditch effort to punch it away, and while he caught a bit of the ball, it had too much momentum, bouncing to the ground and into the goal.
It was a stunning, game changing moment.
One we’ve been accustomed to seeing in the final minutes of the boys’ highest classification final at Highmark Stadium for three years running.
“The ball was played into a dangerous position, we have to clear it there, and unfortunately, we made an error,” Bobby Dyer, Peters Township head coach said. “Up until that point we defended pretty well. We kept the ball to the outside. Possession is fine — and to that point it hadn’t given up a goal. Pretty much up until that point we we played to our plan — and we had good chances on breaks and counters.
Before Peters could recover from surrendering a shocking own-goal equalizer, North Allegheny’s dangerous attacking senior tandem of Josh Luchini and Cameron Yurick came through to deliver the knockout punch two minutes later with a precise pass and sharp finish.
Luchini took the ball up the left end line, finding room to deliver a pin point pass into the goal box for Yurick who made a well-timed run into the box as Luchini drew a bunch of defenders. Yurick would redirect Luchini’s pass past Deyarmin, sending the North Allegheny contingent at Highmark Stadium into a wild celebration.
“There wasn’t much time left, we wanted to finish it in regulation — and go home early,” Luchini said. “Ryan (Earle) played me a nice ball down the line. I took it up the line — waited for him (Yurick) to make the run.”
Like two teammates who’ve been playing together for a long time, Luchini and Yurick were on the same page.
“Once Ryan got the ball to Josh, I cut to the goal, and got to the ball and slotted it in,” Yurick said, as his teammate and the team’s leading scorer and Lehigh University commit drew enough attention to set up the game winning goal. “He makes it easier for all of us. A lot of teams would put their best guys on him, and it frees up the other players on the field.”
Still reeling after the equalizing goal — Peters back line and goalkeeper Deyarmin were beaten again in a matter of minutes after surrendering only four goals in the past nine games and 10 all season.
“We hadn’t recovered — and they took advantage. Give North Allegheny credit. We were still talking about what would need to do to get a goal back, and,” Dyer paused, and eventually added. “That’s that.”
The Tigers controlled possession throughout the contest, while Peters Township looked dangerous occasionally, becoming attack minded in spurts.
The Indians took the lead in the 15th minute with a clinical finish in the box by Luke Kelly — after a deep advance to the left end line was cut back and played into the goal box area. Kelly beat a pair of North Allegheny defenders to ball for the early lead.
Despite conceding a first half goal, the Tigers kept pushing forward throughout the match — and with constant possession and pressure from the width, they kept earning corner kicks — a total of 11 in the match.
Prior to the late goals, North Allegheny were knocking on the door. In the 65th minute, Luchini came awfully close to hitting the equalizer — on a counter as he received a pass from Yurick. Luchini turned and struck a ball from the center of the box that banged off the bar, and for a time there, it looked like that would be a close as they would get.
“We keep believing. I tell them, if you don’t believe, you won’t get on the field. If there’s any doubt, you won’t be champions, and they know that,” Vosmaer explained as he’s now guided his program to consecutive WPIAL titles. “Every time we play — it’s all out. There were moments when our defenders got a bit restless, they gave us some nervous moments, as they came up and wanted to create early in the second half. But once we got back to playing our game, and with a little bit of luck, we’re all smiling again.”
Players of the Match: JOSH LUCHINI and CAMERON YURICK
The senior duo were the most dangerous players throughout the match — especially when they were connecting passes and looking for each other in the final third. It seemed like it was a matter of time before they struck gold. Sure, it helped that they had a little luck which fueled the momentum which led to the game winner.
Long Hong Photo Gallery
Peters Twp – Luke Kelly – 25′
North Allegheny – Own Goal – 73′
North Allegheny – Cameron Yurick (Josh Luchini assist) – 75′
Both teams will advance to the PIAA playoffs — which will begin with first round action on Tuesday. North Allegheny won’t be given any favors, as they’ll take on Pine-Richland at a site to be determined, while it appears that Peters will have to travel North to take on the District 10 champions.