Avonworth boys fall in PIAA Class A soccer final
Friday, November 16, 2018 | 3:18 PM
HERSHEY — Dominant defense and goalkeeping helped carry Avonworth to a historic boys soccer season, but the Antelopes met their match in that department Friday.
The WPIAL champion Antelopes saw their bid for the first state championship in school history denied, falling 2-0 to District 4 champion Millville in the PIAA Class A championship game Friday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium.
Millville used a combination of possession and a few timely saves by its freshman goalkeeper Landon Evans to deal Avonworth (23-1-1) its first loss of the season. Eli Klinger and Griffin Bower scored second-half goals for Millville (22-2), which won its first state title.
“They put a lot of pressure on us,” Avonworth coach Tom Angell said. “They have some quality strikers. We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but they were very good up top. (Bower) particularly puts a lot of pressure on us. A bounce goes here or there … it just felt like one of those games that could go either way. They got a couple bounces, they finished.”
The two goals matched the highest total Avonworth (23-1-1) allowed all season. The Antelopes allowed just 11 goals in their first 24 games of the season and had 15 shutouts.
“Most of what prevents the goals is our possession, because we get the ball in the other team’s end the whole time,” Angell said. “When they never have the ball, they can’t score. That’s been a big part of it for us. But this team had great possession. They’re a very quality opponent.”
Millville tested Avonworth early, but goalkeeper Tyler Stewart made a point-blank save in the opening minutes of the game, one of seven stops he had in the contest. Evans’ biggest first-half save came late on a header by Avonworth’s Sam Guzzo.
Klinger broke the scoreless tie under three minutes into the second half when he headed Blake Evans’ pass past Stewart and into the goal.
“Any type of advantage you can get at any time, you’ll take,” Millville coach Anthony Preston said. “A couple games ago, we played with similar conditions with the wind, so we asked the team right away, do you want to play with the wind or against the wind in the first half? They wanted against the wind because it would hopefully make for an easier second half.
“As long as we got out even or above in that first half, we were good, and once the boys were able to get settled in the second half and were able to play their own game, we just had the result.”
Angell said the first goal proved crucial because it allowed Millville to pack in its defense around Landon Evans. The Quakers started three seniors and a junior in the back, and their experience showed in limiting Avonworth’s opportunities.
Bower made it 2-0 with just over 14 minutes remaining, taking a pass from Cameron Laubach and getting a mini-breakaway on Stewart.
“We changed our formation; we were trying to push guys up, and things like that happen,” Angell said. “We’re not worried about losing 1-0 or 2-0; we’re trying to get that equalizer.”
Avonworth’s Michael Mucha nearly cut the Antelopes’ deficit to one goal just about two minutes after Bower’s score, but Evans made a diving save at the goalpost to preserve the shutout.
“He played well beyond his years today, and we’re collectively just beyond proud of all the boys on the team,” Preston said. “We have one blinking light in the middle of town, essentially. It’s never been done before, and the thing is, it’s too difficult to put into words.”
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.