Greensburg Central Catholic repeats, wins 5th WPIAL boys soccer championship
Saturday, November 7, 2020 | 5:35 PM
It wasn’t that Greensburg Central Catholic became complacent after a high-speed start against rival Winchester Thurston.
The Centurions sprinted to a three-goal lead, but with 61 minutes of soccer remaining and the Bears more than capable of making that lead disappear, it was time to get serious.
“Naturally, when you’re up 3-0, you start shrugging, like, ‘We’re OK here,’” GCC coach Tyler Solis said. “That’s what teams can do with big leads. Defensively, we had to make them earn all of their chances and play like it was 0-0.”
Making a stand against the pending comeback was going to be the key to repeating as WPIAL champions, and that stand was an all-hands-on-deck situation for top-seeded GCC, which held on for a 3-2 victory to defend its Class A title on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Gateway.
It was the program’s fifth WPIAL title.
GCC (15-1) advances to the PIAA quarterfinals where it will play District 5 champion Rockwood (19-0) Saturday somewhere in WPIAL territory.
No. 2 Winchester Thurston’s season is finished at 14-2.
GCC junior goalkeeper Max House was outstanding down the stretch, making 12 saves, including a sliding kick-save with six seconds left on a dangerous shot by Oliver Daboo.
“At the end of the first half, we stayed composed but really tried to keep ourselves in it,” House said. “We kept drawing fouls, but we had to stop that in the second half. We were really throwing our bodies at the ball. They have some deadly strikers on that team.”
The Section 2 co-champs have now played four times in the postseason since 2017 and all four have been one-goal games.
GCC beat the Bears in last year’s WPIAL final, 1-0, before losing in the PIAA semis, 2-1.
House had help as a number of GCC players, including junior Mason Fabean, put their bodies on the line to stop scoring chances.
“This team continued to press us,” Solis said. “We needed our guys to make plays and they did, time and again. We had guys kicking shots away, stopping balls with their noses, their faces. Whatever it took, they did it.”
Sophomore forward Carlo Denis scored his 32nd goal of the season just 59 seconds in on a breakaway as he trickled a shot past Bears keeper Otto Graham.
“It was a really fun game,” Denis said. “Scoring early, it felt like we were ready to play. We knew we had to step it up and play our best game when they came back.”
In the 15th minute, Fabean raced ahead of a slow-moving defense and scored his 23rd of the season past Graham to make it 2-0.
More GCC chances followed, and sophomore midfielder Kyler Miller increased the advantage to three on a run-in up the far side in the 21st minute.
“We continued to put it on,” Solis said. “The first 25 minutes of the game, we came out flying.”
But then the Bears started to find a rhythm on the attack and began to make House work.
Daboo, a sophomore, headed a shot off the post, then followed his shot and poked in the rebound to make it 3-1 late in the first half.
“At halftime, coach told us just to keep it going forward and keep it in our half and keep on pressuring them,” Denis said. “We had to man-mark some people so they couldn’t get their shots off. We did a really good job on that, and we won, so it’s always good.”
Winchester Thurston was poised to come back with a strong second-half counter. That GCC had issues clearing the ball in the second half helped the Bears’ cause. Second-chance opportunities kept surfacing for the Bears around the cage.
Junior midfielder Grant Robinson scored off a wild sequence for Winchester Thurston in the 58th minute. The ball was blocked, then saved by House before it clanked off the post and came to Robinson, who flicked the rebound behind House to cut it 3-2.
The GCC defense, which posted shutouts in the quarterfinals and semifinals, helped House board up the net from there.
“That one aged me,” Solis said. “It feels great to be back again. This was our trophy. I wanted the boys to know we were defending it, and we defended it with all we had.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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