By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T
In early September, many coaches and players declared that the Catholic League Red spanision was the strongest collection of elite soccer teams in the entire state of Pennsylvania.
When taking into account the many terrific leagues throughout the state, that was quite a statement.
Now with the regular season winding down, it’s difficult to find anyone who has changed their mind.
“You could tell right from the beginning that there were so many good teams who would compete for the championship,” said outstanding North Catholic goalie John McCarthy. “There have been some great games during the regular season.”
The “anyone could beat anyone” mantra might sound boring, but when a group of talented teams are as tightly squeezed as the Catholic Red, that is more than just an idle comment aimed as a compliment to the second-notch competition.
Unless a monumental upset occurs, four of the following six teams – Father Father Judge, La Salle, North Catholic, St. Joseph’s Prep and Archbishop Ryan from the Red spanision and Archbishop Wood from the Blue spanision – will reach the final four, and two of them will later meet for the Catholic League championship.
Which teams that might be is fodder for a fun debate.
Through Oct. 19, there were only two games remaining before the playoffs. A brief glimpse at how the aforementioned teams have fared so far suggests it would be unwise to offer a prediction as to which school will accrue the traditional round-shape league trophy.
Father Judge is in first place with a 10-1-1 spanision record; its only loss a 1-0 decision to North Catholic. The Crusaders’ tie was against the Prep.
La Salle is second at 9-2-1; both losses were to Father Judge (2-0 and 2-1). The Explorers’ tie was against North Catholic.
At 8-3-1, North Catholic is third; its losses coming against the Prep, La Salle and Judge. Right behind the Falcons is the Prep.
The only blemishes on the Hawks’ 7-3-2 mark are losses to North, La Salle and Judge, but all three of those defeats were by one goal.
And while Archbishop Ryan is “only” 5-5-2, the Raiders have defeated North Catholic, tied the Prep and lost one-goal decisions to the Prep and La Salle
As for Archbishop Wood, the Vikings are 14-1 overall and have completely dominated the Blue spanision. Wood has allowed a grand total of three goals this entire season – including one each to Red spanision foes Ryan (1-0 loss) and Roman Catholic (a 5-1 win).
Among the Vikings’ more impressive wins was last week’s 3-0, Blue spanision triumph over second-place Conwell-Egan, which virtually cemented the regular-season title.
“It was a big game for us,” said Wood senior Trey Chamberlain, a stellar defender. “We knew they would come at us hard, but we were prepared.”
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.