Firing on all cylinders, Seneca Valley drills Norwin to reach Class 4A title game

Wednesday, November 4, 2020 | 9:45 PM

It is always a coach’s dream to see his team playing its best heading into the biggest game of the year.

It’s another thing to put the ball in the net five times in a semifinal match.

Second-seeded Seneca Valley scored five unanswered goals to defeat previously unbeaten Norwin, 5-1, in the WPIAL Class 4A semifinals Wednesday night at NexTier Stadium.

“I’m very impressed with our guys,” Seneca Valley coach George Williams said. “The way they played, the way they conducted themselves, I’m just really proud of my group.”

Norwin found the back of the net first in the 12th minute from the penalty spot. Ethan Snyder was fouled in the box, and Riley Zimmerman scooted one past Raiders keeper Adam Davies for the first goal for the third-seeded Knights.

Immediately after the penalty kick, Williams made a multitude of substitutions. The veteran coach, who celebrated his 300th career victory in a quarterfinal win over Butler, used his deep bench to create a spark.

That spark ignited a pair of goals less than 10 minutes later. Ben Marquardt flicked on a ball down the middle of the pitch, and Luke Simpson drove it to the far post for the equalizer in the 20th minute. Three minutes later, Marquardt sent a cross that Nathan Prex buried from 6 yards out to take the lead.

Marquardt, Simpson and Prex are all reserves.

“They brought a great big spark,” Williams said. “(The penalty kick) was like a punch in the mouth, and I love how they responded.”

Seneca Valley took that 2-1 lead into halftime and came out swinging in the second half. Nathan Eastgate took a chip over the top of the defense in the 48th minute and beat Norwin’s keeper Andrew Yanez to give the Raiders a two-goal edge.

Kyle Majeski then shut the lights out for good in the 66th minute with a free kick from 34 yards out that rose into the top corner and past a fully stretched Yanez.

Jonathan Pruce, another reserve, finished the scoring with three minutes remaining, tapping in a cross for Marquardt’s third assist of the match.

Five goals by five players is a big boost of confidence for the Seneca Valley team going into the finals, but Williams was quick to play it down.

“It absolutely is (a confidence boost), but the only concern is we don’t want to get overconfident,” Williams said. “If you go in overconfident (in the finals), it’s not going to be a good thing for us. We just want to keep rolling.”

Norwin’s high-pressure midfield was able to do damage in the early stages of the match, but with the halftime deficit, coach Scott Schuchert’s squad had to push more players forward to search for the equalizer. It was the first loss of the season for the Knights (11-1-2), who lose eleven seniors due to graduation.

“I’ve never seen a group of kids so committed to success in my life,” Schuchert said of his seniors. “They gained the respect of the WPIAL this year. We’re one of the final four teams, and we look to be back next year.”

Seneca Valley (13-1-1) advances to the championship match at 3 p.m. Saturday at North Allegheny. It’s the second time in three years that the Raiders have made it to the title game. They will face top-seed Peters Township, a 2-1 victor in double overtime over Fox Chapel.

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