Faith Christian stops state title bid for Greensburg Central Catholic boys

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Friday, November 20, 2020 | 4:25 PM


HERSHEY — Seth Skowronek took a vicious soccer-ball-to-the-face hit early in the game, and blood began to run from his nose. He was woozy and shaken.

The Greensburg Central Catholic senior defender, though, refused to leave the final soccer game of his career.

“I had to push through it,” Skowronek said. “I didn’t want the ref to see because I didn’t want to come out. We didn’t want to lose.”

Despite the effort from the WPIAL Class A Player of the Year and his teammates in their PIAA championship debut, the Centurions ran into a buzzsaw in Faith Christian Academy and dropped the Class A final, 5-1, on Friday at Hersheypark Stadium.

GCC (17-2) scored the first goal, but Faith Christian racked up the next five.

Skowronek, who thought he might have had a concussion, is not playing soccer in college. He was the epitome of his team after the game: banged up and a little dazed, but grateful to have made it this far.

“Seth is an absolute soldier,” GCC coach Tyler Solis said. “If I’m going to war, he’s my first pick.”

Senior Luke Perreault had a hat trick to power the District 1 champion Lions (16-1) to the win for their first PIAA title in their first appearance.

State finals can take a turn and often do. This one sure did.

Sophomore Carlo Denis opened the scoring for GCC in the seventh minute with his 37th goal of the season — his eighth goal in seven playoff games.

But freshman Collin Moyer tied it 11 minutes later, and the Lions were off and running.

“We had been scoring early and scoring late (in playoff games),” Solis said. “But this one got away from us. I was taken aback a little bit. We started like we wanted to, but I think that goal they scored to make it 1-1 hurt us. Our heads were down for some reason.”

None of GCC’s previous playoff games went to overtime, even though their last three wins were by one goal. Faith Christian made sure this one wasn’t nearly as close.

Faith Christian, which knocked out defending champion Moravian Academy in the quarterfinals and edged Tulpehocken in overtime in the semis, rode a wave of momentum to state gold.

“We went up super-fast, and we kept attacking,” GCC senior Ricco Ciccarelli said. “That’s the best we’ve ever played. They’re strong from goalie to forward.”

Perreault curled in a lasering shot in the 42nd minute, and junior Kieran Rea followed with a rebound off a free kick six minutes later to make it 3-1.

“Set pieces have been a weakness for us,” said Solis, the WPIAL Class A Coach of the Year who played at nearby Lower Dauphin which had homes games at Hersheypark Stadium, a place he hadn’t returned to in 15 years. “I really moved some guys around to put pressure on them. I wasn’t going to sit back and watch.”

With GCC still attacking and moving players up field, the Tigers began to pull away. Perreault scored on a penalty kick in the 68th minute, and the left-backer capped the scoring three minutes later to send the Lions on their way.

“I thought early in the first half, we played some of our best soccer of the season,” Skowronek said. “But they were subbing five guys at a time, and that seemed to wear us down.”

Solis also thought the rapid substituting affected is team.

“It really changed the tempo of the game,” he said. “It was constant stopping. It wasn’t easy to adjust to.”

GCC won back-to-back WPIAL titles and went farther than any team in program history. A state title would have been a nice capper, but the Centurions will have to wait until next season to try again.

“It was our first time playing in the state final,” Skowronek said. “We broke our semifinal curse. I am so proud of this team.”

Solis said it was a great experience for his younger players.

“They know what the next level looks like,” the coach said.

GCC will lose six seniors.

“I can’t thank my teammates enough for everything,” Ciccarelli said. “This is the best season we’ve had here.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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