Norwin shakes off sluggish start, beats Baldwin in first-round game

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Saturday, October 19, 2019 | 7:57 PM


Ian Brown had a goal waved off just before halftime.

The Norwin junior could have waved at a couple of defenders as he cashed in on his second chance.

Brown went left and then right, showing footwork, skill and maybe a little anger as he delivered a highlight-reel goal early in the second half for the Knights in a 3-1 victory over Baldwin in a WPIAL Class AAAA first-round boys soccer playoff game Saturday at Norwin Knights Stadium.

“I saw an opening between the defenders, and I took it,” Brown said. “I cut it back and put it in the net. I wanted to get it back and get (another shot).”

The sixth-seeded Knights (16-2-1) advance to Wednesday’s quarterfinal game at No. 3 Seneca Valley (13-1-1).

Brown’s initial goal was on an indirect kick in the final seconds of the first half. The official ruled no Norwin player touched the ball before it was free-kicked. So Brown, who found the back of the net, had to stew over the missed chance.

Norwin took a 1-0 edge into the break thanks to a goal that did count: Junior Ethan Snyder finished a through-ball from senior Adam Ornowski in the 27th minute.

Somewhat sluggish for most of the opening 40 minutes, Norwin’s offense rumbled to life in the second half, with Brown getting things started to make it 2-0 in the 46th minute. It was just his second goal of the season.

“It was huge after the goal was taken away,” Norwin coach Scott Schuchert said. “We knew we had to strike early (in the second half) to capture the game again. Ian is a class player, and we feed a lot off of him so it was great to see him get on the board and start to take over the game.”

Brown, who missed a handful of midseason games because he said he had a reaction to medication, was part of an attack that outshot the 11th-seeded Highlanders, 12-4.

Baldwin (7-11-1) was making its first playoff appearance since 2011. It has not won a playoff game since 2007 — a 2-1 victory at Norwin.

“It was a little bit frustrating,” Brown said of the no-goal. “It would have made the game feel more opened up. We just needed to look for that next goal.”

Baldwin, which defended well and challenged Norwin’s shots, cut the deficit to 2-1 when Raymond Thomas’ throw-in found its way to Zack Stewart, who nudged the ball just across the goal line before a Norwin defender kicked it away at the 28:52 mark.

Norwin quickly responded, though, as junior Brendan Ash got behind the defense for another in-tight chance and rocketed a shot past keeper Mike Sabo to make it 3-1 with 27:01 to play. Sabo made 10 saves.

“Once the game got moving, we got under control,” Brown said. “We won more 50-50 balls and were able to control the game.”

And Norwin began to resemble its normal self in the latter minutes.

“That’s the beauty of soccer,” Schuchert said. “Usually the last 20 or 30 minutes, the better team takes over and that’s when the goals start to open up. It takes a while to break down teams. A team like Baldwin is not going to lay down easy.”

Norwin thought it might draw a first-round bye. Starting with a game like this could be what gets the Knights going. They reached the WPIAL title game last year.

“It’s weird to not be satisfied when you win 3-1 in a playoff game,” Schuchert said. “We left some things on the table. … Nonetheless, (Baldwin) played really hard, and they’re a good team. We’ll take a win and move on to the next round.

“We may have played a little too relaxed or too skillful instead of playing the game and doing what works. We played behind the defenders. … We put shots on goal and got rewarded for it. We have that mentality going forward that we’re going to attack for 80 minutes.”

Sophomore Andrew Yanez made six saves, including a diving on stop on one of Baldwin’s best chances with 22 minutes remaining. Yanez played on a swollen ankle.

Junior Nate Bown also played through pain. Schuchert said he has a torn meniscus but will wait to have surgery.

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

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