Norwin boys soccer charges into WPIAL Class 4A semifinals

Saturday, October 31, 2020 | 5:50 PM

With a wall of six defenders and a goalkeeper lined up across the front of the cage, creating a situation he had never faced before, Caleb Yuricha stepped to the top of the 6-yard box.

Then junior then did what strikers do: He struck.

Yuricha flicked a shot left of the North Allegheny gaggle. The rare free kick opportunity from point-blank range found its way into the twine to answer an early score from the visiting Tigers and launched the Knights to a 4-1 victory in a WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinal Saturday afternoon at Norwin Knights Stadium.

“They were all right on the line,” Yuricha said of the indirect kick in the 20th minute. “I have only seen something like that in the pros, on TV.”

Third-seeded Norwin (11-0-2), with a healthier lineup and a jolted attack, scored four unanswered goals to top No. 6 North Allegheny (13-4-1) and advance to the semifinals for the second time in three years.

The Knights will play at No. 2 Seneca Valley (12-1-1) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at NexTier Stadium.

Seneca Valley edged No. 10 Butler, 1-0, in another quarterfinal. The Raiders beat Norwin, 5-2, in the 2018 WPIAL title game at Highmark Stadium.

Yuricha, who added another goal early in the second half and also assisted on a score, recently slid over from defender to an attacker position.

Look at him go now.

“I feel really comfortable at striker,” Yuricha said. “It’s actually where I play for both of my (club and high school) teams, and it’s a lot better for me.”

The free kick was the talk of the match. A scrum ensued in front of the net and a North Allegheny player fell on the ball, creating what an official deemed a “dangerous play” and called a foul.

While it was more of a delay than a danger, it sparked the Knights — and their dangerous player.

“The defender played it on the ground in the box, and it was an indirect free kick, so the ball had to be tapped before it was shot,” said Yuricha, who has 12 goals this season. “I’ve never been in a situation like that … ever.”

When Norwin coach Scott Schuchert said he planned to move Yuricha to a more offensive spot before the last regular-season game due to injuries to other players, he used the word “unleash.”

“He creates a mismatch in just about any situation he is in,” Schuchert said. “He is the most universal player I have seen in a long time, attacking defensively. … He’s a leader by the way he communicates, so it was important that we got him in the center of the field and he led us today.”

Junior midfielder Riley Zimmerman gets credit for the game-winning goal in the 29th minute. He showed great touch and control when he ran wide and got around Tigers’ keeper Mikkel Hindsbo, who was out of position near the football 5-yard line.

Zimmerman had two assists.

Yuricha made it 3-1 when he kicked ahead of the back line and reconnected with the ball near the goal crease before one-timing a shot past North Allegheny’s second goalie, Regan Racicot.

“We want to put him in a spot where he helps the team most,” Schuchert said. “He needs to be around the ball a lot more. He makes two or three jaw-dropping plays a game.”

Senior forward Brendan Ash, who recently came back from a foot injury, finished the scoring for Norwin with a soft-footed touch off a rebound that trickled slowly past Racicot with 17:28 left. Ash also had an assist.

“This was our loudest game of the season,” Yuricha said. “It was really high intensity. I am really proud of the boys today, the effort that they put in every single practice, especially today.”

North Allegheny’s goal was scored by Will Stasko off a cross from Kensley Owens in the 14th minute.

Norwin finished 7-0 at home this season and was sharp despite being off for 11 days.

“I don’t know where we’d be without that (first-round) bye,” Schuchert said “It really helped us rest some guys and get healthy again.”

Norwin had not played North Allegheny since 2017 and had not beaten the Tigers since 2013.

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

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