West Allegheny falls in PIAA boys soccer final on late goal
HERSHEY — Moments after the West Allegheny boys soccer team’s 1-0 overtime loss to Holy Ghost Prep in Saturday’s PIAA Class AA championship game, Indians football coach Bob Palko delivered a message.
“If it doesn’t hurt,” Palko told a number of West Allegheny’s players while walking off the pitch at Hersheypark Stadium, “it doesn’t mean anything.”
Though the gesture was appreciated, it’s doubtful Palko, an ardent supporter of West Allegheny soccer, needed to tell goalkeeper Spencer Wolfe about something being painful.
Wolfe was upended on the game’s decisive play — a goal Matt Crawford scored in the 91st minute, which knocked the wind out of him. His arm throbbed. His forehead was scraped.
“We played well,” Wolfe said. “They just played better and came out with the win. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”
Michael Kirby’s cross started the game-winning sequence. Crawford and Wolfe collided. Holy Ghost’s Tim French passed to Joseph Braun, who shot the ball. Wolfe turned around just in time to see Crawford slide a shot past West Allegheny defender Josh Kolarac.
West Allegheny coach Kevin Amos took the high road when it came to the final no-call, even though Wolfe was flipped some four feet in the air by Crawford.
“Keeper got played down,” Amos said. “The ball’s in there. It’s the referee’s discretion. I’m not going to complain about anything. It was just unlucky at the end.”
Holy Ghost Prep coach Ken Lawson argued both players were going for the ball.
“When you get to overtime, it’s going to be something like a ‘bang-bang’ play,” Lawson said. “It’s never usually a pretty goal. It’s something like that. We collided with the goalie, and fortunately for us, we got on the right end of it.”
Though the game was tight, West Allegheny did have a few chances in the second half.
Mike Cummings turned and fired in the 57th minute but came up empty.
Same result from Nick Jaroszynski in the 69th minute on a long rebound attempt from about 25 yards, the ball sailing high and wide right.
Collin Wurst, tightly marked all game, found some open space with about two minutes left following a lead pass from Kolarac.
But by the time Wurst could establish possession, he was too far into the Holy Ghost Prep zone to get anything besides a bad-angle shot on goal.
West Allegheny (21-1-3), the WPIAL champion, allowed a goal for the first time since Oct. 10. Holy Ghost Prep (20-4-0), which had also posted eight consecutive shutouts, started the season 0-3 but won 20 of its final 21.
“It’s tough,” West Allegheny defender Zach Graziani said. “They’re a very good team. Hats off to them. I feel like we could have won. Sometimes things just don’t go your way. That’s just how it is.”
Though many were upset at the way the game ended, Amos didn’t want it to take away from everything West Allegheny accomplished this season.
“There are a lot of teams that would want this second-place medal,” Amos said. “They’re down and it hurts them right now. We had a great season. We expected to be here. Just the opportunity to play in this venue, to have this weekend is great.”