Boys soccer qualifies for districts
With a district playoff berth hanging in the balance, the Northampton boys soccer team traveled to Southern Lehigh last Thursday afternoon for the final game of the regular season.
After a season in which they were 3-6 about midway through their schedule, the Kids reeled off five consecutive victories, handing Emmaus their first loss of the season, and defeating an explosive Whitehall team during that stretch.
Still, their future was uncertain after two losses and a tie in their next three matches.
That meant they had to beat the Spartans to ensure themselves of a winning record and a spot in the district tourney.
Call it mission accomplished.
An early goal by forward Alexander Mello stood up, and the Kids walked away with the victory which launched them into the District XI 4A Boys Soccer Championship. The Kids made the postseason last year but were stopped each time by Pleasant Valley, 1-0 in the EPC playoffs and 2-1 in districts - both were overtime games.
Head coach Ryan Brazuk said that he would have preferred that they accomplished that goal a bit sooner, but knew that his players understood what was on the line in that final game.
“It’s now or never and we did it,” said Brazuk who’s guided the Kids to the district playoffs in his first season at the helm.
Brazuk said that the grass field at Southern Lehigh would pose a challenge since they’re used to playing on turf, but his players adjusted and kept digging all game to get the win.
“I’m so proud of them,” he said. “They keep going, and keep going, and never stop.”
He said that energy and drive will make them a dangerous team heading into the district tournament.
The Kids also benefited from the leadership, especially goalkeeper Brady Rimple who made some big saves while recording his sixth shutout of the year. Brazuk said that he’s their field general on the field.
“He’s louder than me sometimes,” said Brazuk.
Defender Nate Horn also had a big impact on the game. His big leg often flips the field, making it difficult for the opponent to sustain an attack. He said that their win over the Spartans reflected the work before the game.
“It was a big win,” said Horn. “We came into practice yesterday determined and focused because we knew we had to win this game. We had a couple rough patches, but we got the job done.”
He said that grit and determination sets them apart from other teams.
“When we get locked in, nobody’s stopping us,” he said.
The Kids scored their goal off a deflection in the box as Mello drove home the game winner.
Brazuk said that the win was an all-out effort on everyone’s part. The coaching staff worked to get them prepared, and the players followed by executing the game plan to make sure they got the win.
“It was ultimately them on the field who won it,” Brazuk said. “I couldn’t be more happier as a coach.”
Brazuk said that they displayed a lot of fire in the wins over Emmaus and Whitehall. But they also had trouble capitalizing on scoring chances in losses to Nazareth and Parkland down the stretch. He said that postseason is a brand-new ballgame, and the Kids have the potential to hoist the championship trophy.
Horn, who will be making his first district appearance, is also aware that other teams know they could travel a long way through the brackets. They’ve shown they can beat anyone this season.
“If we get the right opportunities, and we’re playing our game that we’re supposed to play, we’re unstoppable,” Horn said. “We have such a good attack and we’re balanced, so if we’re all playing team ball, and not as individuals, we’re amazing.”
Brazuk also knows that it’s wide open this season.
“Anything’s possible,” said Brazuk.
Horn said that he would like to see them get deep into the playoffs and hopefully into the championship game
“I think we have the team to get there,” said Horn. “We just have to keep working hard.”