McGuffey drops thriller on extra penalty kicks
ELIZABETH – Fresh off their first playoff win in school history, the McGuffey boys soccer team looked to continue their momentum after Monday’s victory over Quaker Valley against a once-beaten and powerful South Park int he quarterfinals.
For more than 110 minutes of soccer, the Highlanders hung in there against a very aggressive Eagles team, but eventually a trip to the WPIAL Class AA semifinals wasn’t in the cards for McGuffey as the Highlanders dropped a 1-0 decision that came down to extra penalty kicks.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my boys than I am right now,” said McGuffey head coach Jim Kita. “We took on one of the best teams in the state and hung with them the entire game. It took a bad bounce to beat us. We have come a long way as a program and I think we earned some respect tonight. No one should be hanging their heads.”
That bad bounce came late in penalty kicks, which wasn’t decided after the normal five shooters. Both teams’ first seven shooters scored before McGuffey’s Dillon Richey hit the crossbar.
“They didn’t stop us,” added Kita. “The crossbar did.”
South Park (19-1-0) dominated in terms of scoring chances as most of the game was played in the Highlanders’ end. The Eagles had a golden opportunity late in the first half when defender Jason Yobbi broke free, but his shot sailed just above the crossbar.
The Eagles also had plenty of chances in the second half, but McGuffey goalkeeper Eben King was up to the challenge, turning away one Eagles’ scoring chance after another.
Meanwhile, the Highlanders had trouble creating opportunities for themselves as they instead chose to lay back and protect their end of the field.
“They have some of the best players in the state,” said Kita. ‘We were cautious in our own end, but we did a great job defensively and our goalkeeper was out of this world. He was nervous going in but stepped up and played great.”
McGuffey had their best chance late in regulation, when after a free kick a header from Austin Thomas missed the mark.
Both teams went scoreless through two overtime periods with South Park again controlling action. The Eagles, however, still couldn’t find a way to beat King. They had a great opportunity in the first overtime, but a shot from Ryan Mittleider was deflected by King off the crossbar.
“The plan was to try and keep it wide and attack from there, “said Kita. “We got some chances, but not enough and we couldn’t make a lot happen.”
King stopped 25 shots through regulation and the two overtimes as his play gave the Highlanders a chance to pull off an upset.
South Park’s Dylan McCourt had to make six saves.
“It was a good season, “added Kita. “It’s something to build on in the future. Every kid should be very proud of their effort.”