Tigers fall in D-11 title game, streak snapped
Northwestern’s Sam Seyfried (right) tries to shield Saucon Valley’s Garrett Laub from the ball. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app for a photo gallery. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
EMMAUS — Not many people gave Saucon Valley any chance at dethroning three-time defending district champion Northwestern.
But the No. 3 seeded Panthers entered Thursday’s district final against top-seeded Northwestern with hopes of doing just that. Saucon Valley then followed through on that unlikely aspiration.
Zack Mikota scored on a penalty kick in the first half — the game’s only goal — to lift Saucon Valley to a 1-0 victory and the District 11 Class 3A Championship at Emmaus High School’s Memorial Field.
“I think today we came in with that mindset that we want to be that 1 in 59,” Mikota said. “And I think that made the difference. In the past, I think there was a little fear, but tonight there wasn’t.”
The loss snapped Northwestern’s 59-game win streak against Colonial League foes in regular season play or playoffs. The Tigers had lost to Salisbury back in the 2015 regular season.
Saucon Valley (15-3-1) jumped in front late in the first half after Northwestern was called for a penalty inside the 18-yard box. Moments later, Mikota ripped a shot by Tiger goalie Zach Rosamalia with 2:58 to play in the opening half.
Unlike other years, however, Northwestern faced a halftime deficit in a number of games this fall. So, Tiger coach Nate Hunsicker wasn’t worried about how his team would respond to some adversity on the biggest stage of the season.
“We trailed a couple of times at halftime this year,” Hunsicker said. “Definitely this year a lot more than previous years. So, it wasn’t necessarily uncharted territory, because we have a resilient group of guys. They played their tails off in the second half. It is beyond me how at least five of those shots did not go in the back of the net.”
Northwestern dominated the second half, generating nine shots on goal and 10 corner kicks over the final 40 minutes alone. None of those opportunities found their way by Panther goalie Sean Cyphers, who finished with 11 saves.
“Soccer is a crazy game,” Hunsicker said. “I think the first half was played pretty 50-50. We thoroughly outplayed them in the second half. The shot counter clearly indicates that. We gave up one shot the whole game, the PK. It’s just one of those things.”
Midfielder Zach Creighton, in particular, had plenty of chances on target in the second half. Two of them came in the final five minutes, including one off a corner from Jeff Garcia that directed off the bottom of the crossbar but outside of the Panther’s goal line.
Northwestern finished with 12 shots on goal compared to one for Saucon Valley. The Tigers also held a 12-1 advantage in corners.
“The one at the end where it hit the underneath portion of the crossbar, I thought that was going in for sure,” Hunsicker said.
Northwestern finished its season 18-2-1.
BRINGING IT BACK TO HELLERTOWN ... Saucon Valley won its third district title in program history and its first since 2014. The Panthers defeated Northwestern back in the 2014 district title game. Their other championship came in 1972.
ON TO STATES ... Saucon Valley will face the No. 2 seed from District 1 in the first round of states on Tuesday. Time and place are yet to be determined.