LIZTON — Cardinal Ritter boys soccer coach Bashir Birany and his players couldn’t stop smiling after his Raiders knocked off Class A’s No. 1 team on penalty kicks to earn their first-ever win in a regional.
Their smiles were far from the intensity on the field during the matchup between Tri-West (17-2-1) and No. 8 Ritter (13-6-1). The semifinal game was chippy from the get-go. Tackles were vicious and intentional – mostly. Ten yellow cards and two red cards were handed out.
“We had the passion,” Birany said. “We wanted it more, and we never gave up. The physicality comes down to who wants it more. These kids know each other, so there was a lot of pride on the line tonight.”
The game went to overtime and eventually penalty kicks, tied 1-1. Ritter goalkeeper Jarred Horne made the only save of the five-kick session, and senior Keith Owen drilled home the walk-off winner.
“The four shooters before said he (the Tri-West goalie) follows the eyes, so I walked up there and looked at the opposite corner and just put it in the back of the net, man,” Owen said. “You just have to go up there with a clear mind and just believe in what you’ve been taught for so long.”
Cardinal Ritter got on the board 33 seconds in on a goal by Eli Esterline. Colin Hinkle took the ball down the far sideline and crossed it into the box, where Esterline headed the ball past goalie Lucas Rutherford. It was only the 15th goal allowed by Rutherford in 20 games.
Rough play and yellow cards followed before Tri-West found the back of the net after 60 minutes and several misses. Senior Joey Pfeifer headed home a corner kick from the near corner with 17:41 to play, tying the score. It was his team-leading 22nd goal and came on the Bruins’ fifth corner kick of the second half.
Birany and Tri-West coach Jeff Denny declined to comment on which team was being the main aggressor on the field. Owen said that “it’s tough to play like that with no rhythm to the game. It made for some ugly soccer, but I liked the result. It worked out well.”
Both teams had chances to win in regulation but missed by inches. Tri-West had a header off a corner kick and a strike from outside the left corner of the box, but both clanked off the crossbar.
Ritter had a golden chance off a free kick with 6 minutes left in regulation. Isaac Gonzalez slotted a penalty kick to his left as the goalie went the opposite way. The net was wide open, but the ball struck the left upright and bounced out.
Ritter heads to the championship game, slated for 7 p.m. Saturday against Covenant Christian, which handled Greencastle (9-7-2) 7-0.
Covenant Christian got first-half goals from Elisha Fowler, Malachi Amico, Ethan McNeil, Keaton Joseph and Luke Smith. It added two in the second half – one on a goal by Joseph and one on a penalty kick by Austin Wagner.
“What we did was put the ball in the net with our limited chances, and we haven’t been doing that,” said Covenant Christian coach Michael Johnson. We happened to do that today and took a lot of wind out of their sail. They were a good team. We just happened to score early and often.”