Bentworth stages furious comeback to beat Charleroi, win school’s 1st WPIAL soccer title

Friday, November 3, 2023 | 11:42 PM

Having lost to Charleroi twice already earlier in the season, it would be easy to assume the Bentworth boys soccer team was on its way to a third defeat when the Bearcats trailed the Cougars 2-0 at halftime during Friday night’s WPIAL Class A championship game.

But in the end, Bentworth stormed back with three goals to win the match, as senior Ryan Colbert etched his name in his school’s history book by scoring the golden goal to give the Bearcats their first district title.

“You just go in and look at the guys like, ‘Hey, you just have to win 40 minutes,’” Bentworth coach Nick Malarbi said regarding his halftime talk. “That’s what we did. Luckily, we ended up making it 2-2, taking it to overtime and working hard for a goal.

“There were a couple times this year where we thought maybe we were playing bad or our backs were against the wall, and honestly, with our crowd coming out to support us and pack this place, that helped us out.”

The deciding goal from Colbert came 12 minutes into extra time after Nate Mazon, who had eight saves for Charleroi, parried a shot and Colbert gained possession and slotted it into the right side of the net.

“I just saw Nate Mazon make a save, and unfortunately for him, he couldn’t capitalize on it,” Colbert said. “It bounced right to me, and I just put a foot on it and hoped it went in.”

Colbert’s goal completed a comeback that started in the 63rd minute, as Bentworth was finally able to get the better of Mazon with a goal from Ryan Moessner. The sophomore was played through by John Scott, and he calmly placed it right by the keeper with pressure on his back.

After the first goal, the Bearcats noticeably gained some energy, and they had the majority of the ball for the rest of the second half as they started sending more and more numbers forward.

With sustained pressure, Bentworth was able to tie the match 2-2 in the 76th minute. Colbert provided the assist with a perfect cross that found the head of a diving Andrew Vipperman, who found the back of the net.

The goals were preceded by a strong opening half for Charleroi. Arlo McIntyre opened the scoring after Bryce Large was tripped in the penalty area and McIntyre converted from the penalty spot. That gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead after just 10 minutes of play.

Then, right before halftime, Charleroi doubled its lead after a well-worked sequence down the right wing. Landon Barcus got the better of his defender and put in a cross that found Large, and the senior midfielder made an unselfish play to cut it back to Dylan Klinger so that he could slot it into an open net with Bentworth goalkeeper Diontae Hays anticipating a shot from Large.

There is still more soccer to be played from both sides, as Bentworth will enter uncharted territory in the state playoffs and Charleroi will move on to PIAA play for the second year in a row.

“Right now, you let this sting, and then you build on top of it, because you can’t rewind the clocks and go back,” Charleroi coach Jon Ducoli said. “We learn from our mistakes here, we go back to training, and we go back at it on Tuesday.”

“We’re not practicing Saturday,” Malarbi said with a laugh. “We’re going to take the day off, then come back Sunday and Monday. We’ve got states on Tuesday. This is all new for us. Like I said at the beginning of the season, this is a special group of kids.”

Malarbi, a 2011 graduate of Bentworth, was beyond elated to be the coach that brought his alma mater its first district championship.

“To come back and coach my alma mater, it’s fantastic,” he said. “I’ve been here six or seven years with Gary Amos as the head coach, and when he had to step away to go to Beth-Center, I was more than happy to take over. The community got behind me. They loved the appointment, and obviously it shows. We’re doing a lot on and off the pitch to improve the program, so we’re really excited.”

Certainly, a WPIAL title is an indicator of progress for the Bearcats and their program.

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