CHARLEROI – “I am looking to go out with a bang on this field.”
Those were the words of Charleroi senior Eben McIntyre Monday after the Cougars downed Keystone Oaks in a WPIAL Class 2A first round boys soccer match at Myron Pottios Stadium.
Thursday night, McIntyre lived up to those words as he set up Joel Chambers for the game-winning goal with 7:21 to go in overtime as Charleroi (15-2-1) downed Elizabeth Forward (12-5), 2-1.
“They came in with a good game plan to shut me down,” said McIntyre, who has committed to Pitt. “Every day at practice, I’ll get the ball on the side and dribble on the baseline.
“All of my attackers know where the ball is going to go. I’m not going to shoot it, Joel had great awareness to see what was going on, that I turned the kid, and it was a beautiful finish by him.”
The win sends the fourth-seeded Cougars to the semifinals for the second time in four years where they will face eighth-seeded North Catholic (11-7), a 1-0 upset winner over top-seeded and previously undefeated South Park (19-1).
Charleroi coach Jon Ducoli spoke about the game-winning goal.
“We always go over that, and last night it wasn’t typical for the night before the game, as we had a three-hour training session and it paid off,” he said. “Our guys were able to step up and we are more than a trick-pony.
“Doug has that team so disciplined and as soon as Eben would touch the ball, three people sunk on him, but he was able to make that play.”
EF coach Doug Finke shared his feelings after the game while trying to fight back his emotions.
“You can’t ask for anything more and those guys gave everything,” he said nodding toward his team. “We have a group of nine seniors playing who knew what it takes.
“We were right there knocking. It is just unfortunate.”
While the two programs know each other well from facing off four times over the previous three seasons – all Charleroi wins – they still felt each other out early on.
Neither team got a shot off until the 27:32 mark of the first half when EF’s Ethan Bowser took one, and the first shot on goal didn’t take place until 25:12.
With 22:43 to go in half, Arlo McIntyre had Charleroi’s first shot attempt but it went wide.
Bowser almost gave the Warriors a 1-0 lead when he drilled a shot from 17 yards out, but Charleroi goalkeeper Nate Mazon made a sliding save to his right to keep the match scoreless.
EF appeared to take a 1-0 lead when Eli Barowich scored on a header off of a corner kick with 8:49 left before the half, but he was called for pushing the Charleroi defender in the back to get position.
The match went into the half scoreless with the Warriors taking eight shots, five on goal, and the Cougars only taking two with one on goal.
McIntyre, who entered the game with 70 goals and was the Warriors’ main focus all match, finally got his first shot with 36:41 to play in regulation, and he hit the left crossbar on a direct kick with 19:49 to play.
Denver Radomile gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead with 17:32 left in regulation with a head ball on an assist from Chambers on a corner kick, and it appeared the Cougars had all of the momentum.
However, EF’s Maxwell Salankiewicz tied the match with 12:54 to play after playing a loose ball and scoring.
Once in overtime, the Warriors controlled most of the play in the extra session before the goal by Chambers.
The Warriors had four corner kicks in overtime, but could not convert, and when McIntyre found Chambers with the game-winner it was the only shot the Cougars needed to win and advance.
“They did everything we asked, fought and had a ton of chances,” Finke said. “Hats off to their goalie as he played phenomenal tonight. Some of the saves he was making, he was the difference-maker.”
Mazon finished with eight saves as the Warriors had 13 total shots while the Cougars had nine.
Ducoli is proud of his team, especially the seniors who finish their careers at 33-2 at home, but he knows there is a new challenge.
“This win means a lot,” he said. “But we have to move forward, and the homework starts now.”