Seneca Valley boys soccer wins state championship on Zack LaValle OT goal

Saturday, November 21, 2020 | 9:21 PM

HERSHEY — The test was difficult and tested them physically and emotionally. But at evening’s end the Seneca Valley Raiders achieved their goal.

Zach LaValle scored 36 seconds into the second overtime to give the Raiders a 2-1 win over Neshaminy on Saturday night in the PIAA Class 4A boys soccer final at Hersheypark Stadium.

“It feels unbelievable,” LaValle said. “This team has worked hard. I feel like we’re one of the hardest working teams in the state right now. It feels unbelievable.”

Luke Simpson assisted on the game-winning goal, which came off a throw-in from the left touchline roughly 10 yards from goal. LaValle headed the ball inside the left post past Neshaminy keeper Logan Gildea.

The Raiders (17-1-1) had to play from behind. Jose Rivera’s goal exactly eight minutes into the first half gave Neshaminy an early 1-0 lead and the score remained unchanged through the end of the half.

Neshaminy (13-2-2), the District I champion, suffered a major loss with 10 seconds left in the half when starting keeper Trevor Rush left the game with a hip injury. He did not return. Rush made five saves before making his exit.

His backup, Logan Gildea, turned in a solid effort and could not be faulted on either Raiders goal.

Nathan Eastgate drew his team even 9:29 into the second half with help from LaValle, placing a strike in the top quadrant of the Neshaminy net and the two teams completed the remaining half hour of regulation plus a 20-minute overtime period without another goal being scored.

LaValle said he and his teammates weren’t overly concerned with being down a goal at the half.

“We’ve been down before,” he said. “We’ve been used to it. Going down 1-0 wasn’t terrible for us. We were down 3-1 against Peters Township in the WPIAL final.

“We were used to it; nothing really went to our heads like ‘We’re out of this game.’”

Saturday’s final marked Seneca Valley’s second appearance in a state final; the Raiders lost to Central Bucks East in the 2015 Class AAA final (there were only three classes at the time).

For veteran Seneca Valley coach George Williams, Saturday’s final marked the 305th win of his career.

“As an educator, as a coach, you get into this wanting to help students learn and get better,” he said. “A lot of the satisfaction is just that. Seeing a team at the beginning of the season. Starting with them and working on things, and just seeing them get better and better and better and better.

“Being able to see them, especially a great group of guys like this, experience this kind of success, and being able to know that hopefully I helped in some small way is the most satisfying thing. It really is.”


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