Falcons bow out in D-11 quarterfinals
In terms of Lehigh Valley boys' soccer competition, Salisbury and Northwestern have had a number of close battles over the years.
During their latest meeting, with a district semifinals appearance on the line for the winner, that rivalry lived up to the hype once again.
After 80 minutes of regulation, one in which no team held a lead for more than 8:45, it would take at least one overtime session to declare a winner. But unlike Salisbury's win over Northwestern in last year's district tournament, the Falcons had a bitter taste left in their mouth this time around.
Cody Gangaware lifted the No. 5 seed Tigers in the 10th minute of overtime, firing a shot past Falcon goalkeeper Tyler Keller that ended the No. 4 seed Falcons' season in Thursday's District 11 Class AA quarterfinals.
"We seem to have gotten a little bit of a rivalry going on here," head coach Mark Allinson said. "Last year we won, and this year they came out with a victory. It's all good, clean fun. I think both teams played extremely well."
For the Falcons, it was their earliest exit from district play since being eliminated by Central Catholic in the quarterfinals in 2012. The Falcons missed out on a league playoff spot this year as well.
"The expectations for every Salisbury team are high," Allinson said. "This team is no less. We expect them to come in and play to the best of their ability, to give 100 percent effort, and to let the chips fall where they may. Win or lose, we expect certain things out of them. I think our boys certainly did that for us this year."
The Falcons took the lead briefly in the second half when Connor Wagner found an opening in the Tigers' defense. His shot ricocheted off a defender, floated past Northwestern goalie Kyle Bellhorn for the go-ahead score with 29:35 to play.
But that lead was short-lived for Wagner and the Falcons.
Less than nine minutes later, Gangaware made his first mark on the game. The senior lined a strike from roughly 25 yards out, and his strike ended up in the bottom left corner of the Falcons' goal to tie the score.
That tie held until late in overtime when Gangaware punched in his second score, the biggest of the season.
"I'm extremely proud of the season that we had," Allinson said. "The senior group, in particular, we're going to miss. We lose at least 15 seniors to graduation, and now it's time for the younger kids to shine."
While the Falcons did get the first goal, they had plenty of opportunities to start the game. Off a Falcon corner in the 11th minute, Levi Renninger positioned a header on the Tigers' goal. But unluckily, his attempt hit off one of his own teammates, and the Tigers were able to steer clear of any danger.
A similar situation arose four minutes later on another corner. This time it was Ben Heydt with a shot on goal, but a Tiger defender on the goal line was in the right position at the right time to boot it out of the 18.
"We had guys attacking the ball, which we hadn't had doing in the past few games," Allinson said. "We were able to get on the ball. To their credit, they had people where they needed to be."