Special to The CS&T
Father Judge proved to be the best soccer team in the state.
For that, coach John Dunlop would like to send an unconventional “thank you” letter to the entire Catholic League.
“Every time we meet during the regular season, it’s like a playoff game,” Dunlop said. “Great soccer teams battling each other, neighborhood rivals. And after we play each other twice, we have a real playoff game, so we’re meeting for a third time. No league does that in the state other than the Catholic League. It’s very grueling, but it gets you prepared to face just about anything.”
Technically speaking, Father Judge was named co-state champion after a double overtime, scoreless tie with Central Dauphin High School Saturday night at Hershey Stadium. Even though Dauphin had advanced in shootouts in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, the PIAA does not allow a state title to be decided by penalty kicks.
So when the final horn blew, neither team knew what to do. They didn’t really celebrate. They didn’t really lament. They were in a true state of limbo.
“How do you react to that?” said Father Judge senior Brian Wright. “Soccer games don’t end in ties anymore, not with things like overtimes and shootouts. I don’t think any of us were really happy about it, but there was nothing we could do.”
One of Judge’s unsung performers who was recognized as a third-team All-Catholic this fall, Wright said Crusaders goaltender Chris Schwartz wanted the game to be decided in a shootout despite the pressure it would have put on his broad shoulders.
Wright wanted it, too.
“He’s come up big for us a lot,” said Wright, a graduate of St. Martha’s grade school. “We had confidence in him in situations like that.”
Thus, Father Judge’s last goal of the season actually occurred in the semifinals against Unionville. With the game tied 1-1 in a second sudden-death overtime, junior Gavin Whalen scored to send the Crusaders into their first-ever state championship game.
Dunlop called the contest the “best high school game I’ve seen in 25 years.”
“It was incredible,” he said. “People really got their money’s worth.”
Although the Crusaders were unable to find the net against Dauphin, Dunlop was very proud of his team’s effort. However, he understands how anti-climactic it is to finish in a scoreless tie and end up being called a co-champ.
“I’m very happy with the whole season,” said Dunlop. “We got on a run and never stopped. It was like ‘Hoosiers’ all over again.”
Dunlop was visibly pleased that Wright received some All-Catholic recognition. The Crusaders’ roster includes many standouts such as first-teamers Nick Morris, Emmanuel Kollie and Ryan Brocker, and second-teamers Kevin Bushbeck and Darius Gblunblee.
But Dunlop said performers like Wright supply much of the grit and grind that sets one team apart from another.
“He has put a lot of passion and energy into the program,” said Dunlop. “He’s the type of guy who is under the radar and doesn’t get the credit he deserves.”
He’s also a guy who is a state champion – scoreless tie notwithstanding.
John Knebels can be reached at email@example.com.