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Goalie Wanamaker comes up big for Tigers

WHITEHALL – Northwestern goalie Taylor Wanamaker has been sensational this season.

He just hasn’t always been very busy.

Despite allowing just three goals in his team’s first 21 games this season, Wanamaker’s contribution to Northwestern’s perfect season has often been overlooked.

Thursday night wasn’t one of those occasions, however.

With the Tigers’ season on the line in the District 11 Class 3A championship game against Allentown Central Catholic, Wanamaker needed to be at his best.

He didn’t disappoint.

The Northwestern senior made seven saves, including a pair of spectacular, game-saving efforts in the second half. He also denied another half-dozen opportunities by using his speed and mobility to come out of the net and make plays on the ball.

Thanks in large part to Wanamaker’s performance, Northwestern improved to 22-0 on the season with an electrifying 2-1 double overtime victory over Central Catholic.

“That’s the busiest Taylor has been all year,” said Northwestern coach Nate Hunsicker. “Our defense has been so good all season that Taylor sometimes gets overlooked. I don’t think he was given enough credit this year.

“But he showcased himself tonight. He played his best in the game we needed him most.”

After Allentown Central Catholic grabbed a 1-0 lead with just over 14 minutes left in the opening half, Wanamaker knew he had little margin for error the rest of the way.

It turned out he actually had no margin for error.

The Tigers tied the game at 1-1 when Central misplayed an Andrew Goodolf corner kick in front of the net late in the first half.

For the next 70 minutes, the teams traded scoring threats – knowing that the next goal might be a season-ender for whoever allowed it. That “might be” became a “would be” during the two overtime periods.

But Wanamaker was up to the challenge, making huge saves at both the 19-minute mark and five-minute mark of the second half, and then coming up big again late in the second overtime.

“That was definitely the most stops I made all year,” said Wanamaker. “We have such a great defense that in a lot of games, my biggest challenge was staying mentally sharp and focused because the shots I faced were pretty spread out.

“But I think all goalies will tell you they love being busy and being in the middle of the action. So as much as I love the job our defense has done in front of me this year, it was nice to get tested by Central tonight – and it felt great to be up to the challenge and make the plays I did.”

While Wanamaker was praising the defensive support he received this season, Tiger defenders were also high in their praise of his work.

“Taylor has been great all year,” said Northwestern center-back Caleb Danner. “He’s very aggressive, he’s talkative, he is somebody we have total confidence in, which is extremely important for any defense.

“Tonight we needed him to come up big on several occasions and he did just that.”

Because he did, Northwestern was able to capture its third straight District 11 championship. The game-winner came on a rocket off the foot of Zach Creighton with just 1:00 remaining in the second overtime.

“It looked for a while like we might be going to penalty kicks,” said Wanamaker. “Penalty kicks put a lot of pressure on the goalies. But we practice them and I’m confident if it would have come down to that, I would have been ready.

“Fortunately, Zach’s goal kept that from happening.”

The goal shifted the spotlight from Wanamaker to Creighton – which was just fine with the Northwestern goalie.

“I got goosebumps when Zach’s shot went in,” Wanamaker said. “What an amazing goal. That shot kept alive our season.”

As anyone who watched the game will tell you, Wanamaker’s saves played a huge role in doing that as well.

Northwestern goalie Taylor Wanamaker punches the ball away on an Allentown Central Catholic corner kick. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS