Elizabeth Forward boys rout Mt. Pleasant in WPIAL soccer playoffs

Monday, October 25, 2021 | 10:00 PM

Fifth-seeded Elizabeth Forward cruised to an appearance in the Class 2A quarterfinals with a 6-1 victory over No. 12 Mt. Pleasant in the first round of the playoffs Monday night.

Ethan Bowser finished with a hat trick and added a pair of assists to lead the Warriors (12-4) into a quarterfinal meeting with No. 4 Charleroi on Thursday at Myron Pottios Stadium.

“I think we played a very solid 80 minutes,” EF coach Doug Finke said. “We moved the ball well. We had a lot of chances, and we were dangerous all night on set pieces. I’m very happy with how they came out because you never like looking ahead. We had to show up today, and the boys did.”

Throughout the night, the Vikings (8-9-2) struggled to generate much offensively. They were held without a shot in the first half and were limited to two in the second, including one on a goal by Logan Rega.

EF goalkeeper Logan Cherepko had to make just one save, a leaping stop in which he sent a Mt. Pleasant shot sailing over the crossbar in the opening minutes of the final frame.

“I’m proud of the boys because we actually came in with about three injuries to starters. We had some guys playing out of position, and we switched formations, too,” Mt. Pleasant coach Floyd Snyder said. “Bowser is an explosive player, and he was tough to shut down. He definitely won the match with his play tonight.”

Elizabeth Forward wasted little time setting the tone early as it opened the scoring less than nine minutes into the contest.

Max Salankiewicz took a cross pass from Bowser and scored in a wide open net to give the Warriors a 1-0 advantage.

Bowser netted his first goal of the night with under 19 minutes to go until halftime as he scored on a free kick from 30 yards.

His second goal came with just over three minutes remaining as he fired a point-blank shot from just outside the goal box that beat Mt. Pleasant goalkeeper Jacob McGuinness for a 3-0 halftime lead.

“You want to put as many away early to knock out any hope they have,” Finke said. “Our message at halftime was that it was 0-0 because you don’t want to come out in the second half thinking you’ve created a cushion and not come out with the right mentality. They had a dangerous chance there early in the second half, and then we stepped on the gas in the final 30 minutes.”

In the second half, EF continued to wreak havoc in its attacking third.

The Warriors had 10 total shots in the frame, including one that came off the foot of Ethan Childers to make it a four-goal differential. Childers was able to score in close after taking a cross pass from Bowser, who worked his way around the Vikings defense to create the offensive opportunity.

Anthony Valerio scored three minutes after Childers before Bowser finished off the hat trick on a left-footed shot in close with 21:50 on the clock.

“To me, he’s one of the best all-around players there are, not just in this area, but in the WPIAL. He can just do it all,” Finke said of Bowser. “When you have a part in five out of the six goals, you’re doing something right.

“We know he’s that type of player and we want him to take that commanding role, especially in these type of games. He’s really stepped up this year.”

With a matchup against the Cougars looming, Finke believes his team will be ready for the challenge.

“We know it’s going to be a tough matchup, and we know Eben (McIntyre) is going to be a handful,” Finke said of Charleroi’s senior standout, a Pitt commit who finished the regular season with nearly 70 goals. “We know we have to shut everyone else down around Eben. If we can limit what he finds in the field, that’s the best way for us to win. We’ll keep harping on the defensive side and look to create a few chances, too.”

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