Delco Christian stops Charleroi in Class A state title game

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Saturday, November 18, 2023 | 3:26 PM


Something had to give when Charleroi and District 1’s Delco Christian met to decide the PIAA Class A boys soccer championship Saturday afternoon at Cumberland Valley’s Eagle View Middle School in Mechanicsburg.

Both the Knights and the Cougars came in seeking their first state title. The teams also reached the championship contest having won three state tournament games after losing in their respective district title matches.

Delco’s Cortez Cardone scored the game’s lone goal in the 14th minute, and the Knights and Cougars battled back and forth from there before Delco was able to outlast Charleroi, 1-0, to claim the winning trophy.

“The boys definitely played well and stuck to the game plan, for the most part,” Charleroi coach Jon Ducoli said. “For us to make it this far with the type of talent that is out here, it’s an incredible thing for us.”

Charleroi, which finished 22-2 overall, punched its ticket to Saturday’s title clash with a spirited 2-1 win over Bentworth on Tuesday in the semifinals after Bentworth defeated the Cougars for the WPIAL title at Highmark.

Charleroi and Delco each fired off 10 shots, and Delco finished with a 7-3 advantage in shots on goal.

Cougars senior goalkeeper Nate Mazon made six saves, while Delco keeper Jacob Matthews stopped three Charleroi shots.

Delco finished its championship season 19-3-2. The Knights won four in a row after falling to state power Faith Christian in the District 1 title game.

“I had been telling this team since August that I felt it was one of the two best teams in the state,” Knights coach Rob Atkins said. “We took down Faith Christian (in the semifinals), and they are an unbelievable team coming out of District 1. This team is so resilient.”

The Knights defense and keeper Jacob Matthews limited Charleroi to just three shots on goal — one in the first half and two over the final 40 minutes.

Both teams recorded solid scoring chances in a second half that saw the tempo pick up on both ends.

“At halftime, we stressed making our tackles and not running past the ball,” Atkins said. “We had to clear lines, so we couldn’t make those soft clears. We wanted there to be some scoring opportunities, too, which we got. The last 10 minutes, we were able to push it a little bit out. Credit to Charleroi for continuing to put the pressure on.

“Our back line, Cody Dill and Ryan Carroll, were unbelievable. They played outstanding games. We knew (Charleroi senior) Arlo (McIntyre) was a really good player, and Ryan didn’t allow him to turn on him. We didn’t want him to face the goal and beat us that way.”

Charleroi got the game’s first shot in the seventh minute, but Matthews punched the ball out of danger.

Cardone’s goal came on the Knights’ first shot attempt. Griffin Schmitt centered the ball to Cardone in the box in front of the net, and Cardone headed it past Mazon for the score.

With Delco clinging to a 1-0 advantage at the start of the second half, both teams went after it.

Three minutes into the half, Mazon came up big for the Cougars with a pair of saves to quell a dangerous Delco push.

Cardone threatened for the Knights with a free kick and a header past the Charleroi goal to the right in the first nine minutes.

The Cougars countered with pressure and made two deliveries towards the Delco goal in the 53rd minute. A third attempt by senior Joel Chambers sailed just wide right. It was Charleroi’s first attempt of the second half.

A second Charleroi shot with 23:10 on the clock went wide left, and another at 20:45 rang off the face of Matthews before being cleared by the Delco defense.

A short time later, Cardone broke away for a shot from 12 yards, but he was stoned by Mazon.

Schmitt then broke loose for the Knights, but Mazon came out to kick it away. It left the cage open, but Benjamin Norbury’s follow-up attempt was a boomer that went out of play high and wide of the Charleroi goal.

The Cougars had a couple additional chances down the stretch but were unlucky.

Junior Landon Barcus got a good look with about 13:50 left, but Matthews was there for the save.

A Charleroi corner with 1:35 on the clock was cleared out of danger.

Barcus had an open shot from about 20 yards with 20 seconds left, but he shot high of the Delco net. The Knights then were able to possess the ball as the final few seconds ticked away.

“Both sides definitely left their hearts on the field,” Ducoli said. “It came down to who was going to capitalize on their opportunities first. Nate stood on his head for us today. We just weren’t able to cash in on any of our opportunities.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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