SALISBURY TOWNSHIP – A one-goal deficit was manageable. But when Salisbury went up 3-1 early in the second half, it was more than Tamaqua could overcome.
The No. 4 seed Falcons (14-4-1) won the District 11 Class AA boys soccer semifinal by that score and will meet Palisades Monday at Whitehall. The No. 5 seed Raiders (13-7) are eliminated and their season comes to an end.
"They out-hustled us," said Tamaqua head coach Greg Stewart. "They have a few really good ball skill players. And they're deep."
The Falcons, playing on their home field, grabbed a quick lead on Sean Baker's goal 2:54 into the game. They made it 2-0 when Brian Maehrer scored on an assist from Sean Adams with 24:09 left in the first half.
Tamaqua cut the lead in half when Gonzalo Hernandez Cascante buried a penalty kick past Falcon keeper Chad Heidecker with 18:46 left in the first half.
That goal gave the Radiers some much-needed momentum. And it gave their coach new confidence.
"I'm feeling that we can win the game [after the goal]," Stewart said. "We were playing aggressive and making some good passes. We were actually more aggressive to the ball."
"That had the potential to keep them in it," said Salisbury head coach Mark Allinson. "All they needed was one quick counter attack to tie it up."
The team's played even for the rest of the first half.
Early in the second half Adams, a center midfielder, scored the goal that put the game away. He took a cross from Baker, dribbled into a clearing and beat Tamaqua goal keeper Zack Lakitsky to the lower right corner of the goal 3:28 after halftime.
"We picked up the intensity in the second half," Adams said. "We knew they were still in the game."
"It was a big goal," said Allinson. "Anytime you have a two-goal cushion it can be a momentum changer."
Salisbury kept up pressure for the rest of the second half, but thanks to some great saves by Lakitsky and some errant shots by Salisbury's forwards, it remained just a two-goal margin.
That was enough for the Falcons, who have two Colonial League First Team players and five all-league players overall.
Salisbury outshot Tamaqua 18-5 while holding a 12-2 margin in corner kicks. Lakitsky made 15 saves, while Salisbury keeper Chad Heidecker made five.
Tamaqua was playing the game without four starters who were sick or injured.
The Raiders capped a successful season. One year after qualifying for districts with a losing overall record, they finished the regular season eight games over .500.
"It was a great season," Stewart said.