Salisbury stuns top-seed Northwestern
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS Salisbury's A.J. Faulke heads the ball as Northwestern Lehigh's Kyle Willis moves in on the defense.
For the first 50 minutes of play, Northwestern couldn't gain any control of the momentum against Salisbury in Tuesday night's District 11 Class 2A semifinal game at Northern Lehigh.
Over a span of six minutes in the second half however, the Tigers finally got a grasp on things and made it a whole new game tying things up. That was after finding themselves in an unusual circumstance, down by two goals.
With 1:02 left in the game, however, the Falcons were awarded a free kick from about 25-yards out from in front of the net.
With little hesitation, Danny Walters placed the ball over a defensive wall with his left foot. It quickly ricocheted off the top bar and directly into the back of the net to lift Salisbury, the tournament's No. 4 seed, to a 3-2 victory over the No. 1 seeded Tigers.
While several Northwestern players fell to the ground in dismay, and several more held their head in disbelief, it was a call and a shot that Northwestern head coach Nate Hunsicker knew all too well was out of their own control completely.
"Unfortunately, it was a questionable call to set-up the kick," said Hunsicker, as he watched his players fall a game short of its first trip back to the district title game since 2006. "A 50-50 ball. Our defender had just a right to go in there.
"But, you have to tip your hat. The kid made a heck of a shot. There was nothing anyone could do about that shot. I don't care who was in net. It's going in."
Connor Wagner, a Colonial League First Team selection, scored the game's lone first half goal with 28:38 before half. The junior forward later gave the Falcons a two goal lead with 29:42 left in the contest.
Moments later, Hunsicker decided to take a chance and switch things up a bit on the attack.
The Tigers' Brandon Herb capitalize on the move by Hunsicker and made it a one goal deficit. Herb took in a perfect set-up from Cody Gangaware to make it a 2-1 game with 27:19 remaining.
Brandon Ettl and Kyle Willis followed suit 6:13 later with the Tigers' second goal. Willis from the far-side send a perfect cross just in front of Ettl and he was able to get his head on the ball and put it into the back of the net to tie things up.
"We kind of had to roll the dice," Hunsicker said. "We changed our formation a little bit by pushing Brandon Herb up top to give us a little more of an offensive attack and he was the difference maker there. It's just one of those things - you live by it and you die by it. Maybe it was the wrong call moving him back after we tied it when we had the momentum or what not.
"But, I think it was the smart decision any coach would make. It was a tough call. It was a heck of an effort from our boys to gut it out. It's easy to hang your head when your down 2-0 and just give up, but they didn't do that."
While the Tigers were able to get off five of the game's last eight shots, and 10 of their 18 shots in the second half, it was the one by a Second Team All-Star, Walters, that spoiled the chances of Northwestern getting a chance to win its first district title since 2004.
Still, Hunsicker won't let his Tigers forget the things they accomplished along the way to that point of heart break.
"It just didn't fall in our favor," Hunsicker said. "We had a heck of a run this year. We ran off 16 straight, which I believe is a school record. We won the league for the first time in a long time. The chips just didn't fall in our favor tonight. It's tough going out as the one seed obviously before you get to the championship, but we had a great run this year.
"It's a little bit short of our ultimate goal this year, but they have a lot to be proud for with all the accomplishments this year."