Central Catholic and Northwestern battled through a scoreless first half in Thursday's District 11 2A boys soccer semifinal at Northern Lehigh but it wasn't for a lack of effort.
Both the Vikings (9-7-4) and Tigers (15-5-1) were engaged in quite a physical contest that you knew something had to give.
The Tigers had more shots on goal, more corner kicks and way more chances than the Vikings, but it was the latter that scored on three of its four shots on goal for a 3-1 victory to end Northwestern's outstanding season.
"One of the things I said to our guys at halftime was the majority of their offensive game is those quick counter strikes and that's how they found the net," said Northwestern Lehigh head coach Nate Hunsicker. "We did have more opportunities, but in the game of soccer you have to capitalize on your chances and they did that."
It was Central Catholic's leading goal scorer Matthew Wagner who managed break the ice to give the Vikings the lead with just shy of seven minutes off the clock in the second half, making it 1-0 off an assist from the left corner by Cian O'Connell.
For the longest time, it looked like Wagner's goal would stand up, but the Tigers kept battling on the offensive and Brandon Herb managed to tie things up with 7:44 left on the clock.
Herb and Boston Furjanic pounded three straight shots at Central goalie Trevor Grigoruk before they finally got one past him to make the score 1-1.
Wagner, who Central head coach Peter Car said the offense is built around, punched one past Northern Lehigh goalie Kyle Snyder with 5:20 remaining for the actual game-winner thanks to a perfect pass from Ian Long.
Central added an insurance goal by Tomas Espinosa with 21.4 seconds on the clock, but the Viking senior was yellow and red carded for excessive celebration which included removing his shirt and will now have to sit out Saturday's championship against Saucon Valley.
"It did look like it had overtime written all over it when we tied it up 1-1," said Hunsicker, "but they came back, they're a very resilient team and didn't hang their heads when we scored that goal. They wanted it bad and they got it back. You have to tip your hat to them."
The Tigers, who lost to the Vikings 5-0 in their season opener, finished the contest with eight shots on goal, to just four by the Vikings and also had a 4-2 edge in corners and a 17-6 advantage on indirect kicks.
Grigoruk had six saves in goal for Central, while Snyder and three saves for the Tigers.
"Wagner had 16 goals on the year and we told him that he was due today," said Car. "He hasn't scored since the Allen game which was four games ago. We know if we get him to score, it lifts everybody up. Obviously his second goal, especially to come back. That was a dagger when they put that goal in with just under eight minutes left and he came back with a rifle.
"We told him before the game to just shoot. They first time we played them he scored from 30 yards out so we knew we could get the best of their keeper at times."
It's the first time the Vikings have reached the district final since 2007 and are now guaranteed at least two more games since the top two teams head for the PIAA tournament next week.