Greensburg Central Catholic gets wild OT win over Eden Christian

Tuesday, November 2, 2021 | 9:33 PM

Carlo Denis said he heard a defender say, “Oh, no.”

Seconds later, Greensburg Central Catholic was saying, “Oh, yes.”

Denis, the Centurions’ standout junior forward, took a throw-in from junior Jacob Umbel as time ticked down in overtime Tuesday night.

He then spun around a defender and touched the ball off to mighty mite freshman Jackson Vacanti.

Nobody saw it coming: Vacanti rushing into frame, his winning goal or him ripping off his shirt in a dogpile celebration. But it all did happen. And it was electric.

Vacanti calmly netted the golden goal with 5 minutes, 17 seconds left in OT as the top-seeded Centurions rallied past No. 5 Eden Christian, 6-5, in a WPIAL Class A boys soccer semifinal at West Mifflin.

At 5-foot-3 and 97 pounds, Vacanti isn’t the biggest player on the pitch. He was a giant on this night, though, as he sent two-time defending champion GCC (15-3) to its fourth straight WPIAL championship game.

“I knew it was coming to me,” Vacanti said. “I just got ready and put it in. Carlo gave me a great pass. Amazing.

“Our whole team doesn’t want to lose. They’ll do whatever it takes.”

GCC, which overcame deficits of 3-0 and 4-1, will play No. 2 Winchester Thurston (18-0-1) for the title at 8 p.m. Friday at Highmark Stadium. The teams have met in the last two title games.

GCC clinched a spot in the PIAA playoffs.

Eden Christian will play Riverside (9-10) in the WPIAL consolation game Thursday for a spot in the state tournament.

Denis had a hat trick, and senior Ryan Reitler added two goals in the win that saw offensive fireworks in the first half and tightened defense in the second.

“Our halftime speech wasn’t pretty, but they got the message in the second half,” GCC coach Rob Fabean said of his players. “They were unbelievable tonight.”

How did GCC manage to give up five goals in the first half and none in the second against Eden Christian (17-3-1)?

“We didn’t head the ball and take care of their physical players up top in the first half,” Fabean said. “The second half, I thought we were phenomenal in the back. We made a change, putting Ben (Duong) back at left back and Jacob (Umbel) up top and went to three forwards.”

GCC played without senior standout Mason Fabean, who had to sit a game after receiving a red card in the quarterfinals against Springdale.

The Centurions showed they have plenty of other weapons as they rallied time and again.

“For our guys not to quit says a lot about what I have said before,” Rob Fabean said. “We can beat you with a lot of different players. We did it again tonight. Jackson came up big in a huge spot for a freshman. Unbelievable effort by these guys.”

The Centurions started Max House in goal, the senior’s first action of the season after he had ACL surgery in the offseason. He came back in less than six months. House, who didn’t get much help from his defense in a frantic first half, was pulled in favor of sophomore Michael Oldenburg to open the second half.

Oldenburg was solid, making six saves.

“Mike, who came up big in last game with some big saves, was phenomenal in the second half today,” Rob Fabean said. “Our back line, Ryan Reitler in the six for 55 minutes kept them off the board.”

Eden Christian erupted for five first-half goals and took a 5-3 advantage into the half.

Senior Jack Jones opened the scoring just three minutes in for his 21st tally of the season, and the Warriors went ahead 2-0 on a breakaway by junior Malachi Manges in the 16th minute.

A redirect by freshman Roman Reichart off a corner kick came to junior Elijah Kuhlman, who headed home the third goal six minutes later.

“You let their big forwards run, they’re going to go,” Rob Fabean said. “They have the speed and size to cause up problems, and they did. Our kids held their own and did a great job out of the back to our attacking players.”

GCC allowed Denis to showcase his speed as he zipped behind the Warriors back line for a couple of first-half scores, the first coming off a pass from junior Jake Gretz in the 23rd minute to make it 3-1.

After Jones received a yellow card, GCC cut the deficit to 3-2 on a goal from Reitler, who toed a redirect off a shot by Gretz.

Eden answered in waves, with two more scores that came less than 30 seconds apart.

The Warriors again found success on a corner kick in the 34th minute, with Senior Nathan Lomango scoring on the set piece, and Daniel Batch finished in the 37th minute for a 5-2 lead.

Denis added a score with 17.5 seconds left in the half to get the Centurions within two.

He reached a hat trick in the 54th minute to make it 5-4, this time putting a spin move on a couple of defenders to create a shot.

“Carlo was magnificent with the ball at his feet,” Rob Fabean said. “His skill level tonight was what I was most impressed with.”

Reitler missed high on a penalty kick but was on the mark when he got a second PK in the 62nd minute to tie it 5-5.

“We knew we had to kick it up,” Denis said. “We knew we could break their defense. We saw that, and we played balls back. Our defense stepped it up. It was a great team effort.”

Eden appeared to score in overtime when Batch connected on a charge from the wing, but a foul was called on the Warriors and the goal was waved off.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at

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