Wurst’s key saves, penalty kick send West Allegheny boys to WPIAL championship game

Tuesday, October 30, 2018 | 12:36 AM

It was the end of the second overtime of the WPIAL Class 3A soccer semifinal between West Allegheny and Mars, and the two goal keepers — the Indians’ Braden Wurst and the Planets’ Nathan Paras — took a long walk together.

The two had sparked their respective teams through 110 minutes of soccer, and now, locked in a 3-3 tie, Wurst and Paras walked together from midfield toward the goal on the east side of Moon Stadium, where only one would emerge victorious.

As they walked, they talked. Not trash talk. Simply two goal keepers under the same pressure to send their team into the WPIAL championship game.

“I wished him luck,” Wurst said. “We both knew what we needed to do, and now we had to fight for it.”

Unbeknownst to Wurst at the time, he would be called upon to not only save the game in goal, but to win the game with his foot.

After the required five kickers, both West Allegheny and Mars had connected on three penalty kicks each, meaning both teams would have to go deeper on their respective rosters to take kicks. After stopping Mars’ sixth kick attempt, West Allegheny coach Kevin Amos surprised Wurst when he asked him to step out of goal and onto the pitch to take the Indians’ sixth attempt. Wurst found nothing but the back of the net, lifting West Allegheny to a thrilling 4-3 victory.

With the win, West Allegheny improved to 19-1 and advanced to the WPIAL championship game later this week at Highmark Stadium. It is the forth time in the last 10 seasons the Indians have advanced to the title game.

Wurst admits he was caught off guard, not only being asked to kick but also because he lost track of how many players had kicked before him.

“I thought our fifth guy was coming up,” Wurst said. “I didn’t realize we were going to our second five. I had an idea I might be in that range, but I still wasn’t expecting it when he picked me.”

“He’s always asking me to take kicks,” Amos said. “So I sent him up there.”

It was the culmination of a thrilling back-and-forth game. West Allegheny led twice, 2-1 at halftime and 3-2 late in the second half, before Mars tied the game on a goal by Tyler Nymberg with 17:32 left. That set the stage for a exhilarating first overtime that saw three tremendous defensive plays on potential game-ending shots.

With Paras down after making a save, Mars’ Shane Lisman slid in behind him to knock away a ball from a wide-open goal on a shot by Antonio Fiordilino. Lisman later made another defensive stop to turn away another potential game-winner. Not to be outdone, Wurst made a tremendous save on a shot by Mars’ Austin Rocke.

“That was two heavyweights out there tonight giving and taking their best shots all night,” Amos said.

For Wurst, his heroics were the continuation of a big night, as he stopped two Mars shots in the first half from point-blank range inside the 6-yard line.

“The first one surprised me,” Wurst said. “I don’t know what else to say — they just happened. But this wasn’t just about me. Everyone stepped up when they needed to tonight.”

As for Amos, taking another team to another WPIAL title game is something he isn’t taking for granted. West Allegheny has won one title game and lost two.

“It never gets old,” Amos said. “I do, and I have a lot less hair than I did the first time. We preach to the kids about being unbeatable and they showed that tonight. They never gave up.”

Jim Equels Jr. is a freelance writer.

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