Clutch goalkeeping sends Hampton past West Allegheny, into state finals

Wednesday, November 17, 2021 | 12:08 AM

When Zach Panza’s attempt hit the crossbar and put Hampton on the brink of elimination in round four of penalty kicks, Talbots goalkeeper Thomas Bradfield admitted he thought his high school career was over.

It was an understandable thought because the odds of making consecutive saves in penalty kicks aren’t great, but that’s exactly what Bradfield did, and it will forever go down in Hampton soccer lore.

Bradfield’s two saves extended penalties past five frames and Hampton went on to win 6-5 in the eighth round to earn a 2-1 win over West Allegheny in the PIAA Class 3A boys soccer semifinals Tuesday night at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium.

The Talbots will play Archbishop Wood at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for the state championship at Hersheypark Stadium.

Bradfield made consecutive diving stops on Trevor Day and Logan Mackey in rounds four and five.

“I know there’s not much pressure on me because the shooter is supposed to make it,” Bradfield said. “I just gave my best effort, chose one side and hope they shoot it there. I guessed one way and was right (on the fourth attempt) and guessed the other way on the next one and luckily I made the saves.”

It was the cherry on top of a workmanlike night for Bradfield, who made 14 saves between regulation and the two overtimes prior to penalties.

Brennan Wesley scored in between Bradfield’s two saves to tie it at 3-3. In sudden death penalty kicks, Bradfield, Frank Galioto and Liam Nichols scored for the Talbots. Brayden Lambert and goalkeeper Jared Golla scored for West Allegheny, but then Keegan Amos’ attempt to keep the match going went wide and the Talbots spilled out onto the field in celebration.

“This is something that we’ve wanted since the beginning of the season,” Bradfield said of reaching the state final. “This has been our goal. We’re a bunch of seniors, and it’s our last time playing together. That’s what we did tonight. We knew as soon as we conceded (a goal), we just had to keep on pounding and that’s what we did. We practice PKs before every single practice and before every game, so we knew we could win.”

Hampton conceded a goal for the first time all postseason when Amos smashed home a header off a feed from Tyler Rosbrough in the 51st minute, tying the match at 1-1. West Allegheny and Hampton each had several opportunities to find the tiebreaker before penalty kicks, but neither could find the net.

Fatigue started to set in by the second overtime. Four West Allegheny starters — Will Douglas, Tyler Deramo, Mason Day and Alexander Hennon — missed an extended period of overtime due leg cramps.

“Some of our penalty takers were down with some cramping issues, but things happen,” West Allegheny coach Kevin Amos said. “Playoffs are cruel. You hope to get a little luck in that situation, but they certainly had it.

“It hurts for our guys right now, but there were only four teams left in the state in our classification before tonight. To be here was a good learning experience. It always hurts to lose, but we’ll be back.”

Gabe Viszlay opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a rocket of a shot from 35 yards out that bent underneath the bar.

The Talbots will look to win their first PIAA title since 2010 on Saturday. Hampton coach Matt McAwley played for the Talbots from 2005-08, so he just missed making states as a player, but he’s happy to be taking the current team to Hershey.

“This is a special group. I’ve said that from day one,” McAwley said. “They’ve worked so hard to get where they are today. Winning WPIALs was a fantastic thing that we did. Now after beating an incredible West Allegheny team, we find ourselves on the road to Hershey, which is amazing.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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