Boys soccer takes CL title
Coming into the season with nine of last year’s starters returning from a team that reached the league playoffs and district final last season, the goals were clear this season for Northwestern’s boys soccer team and they included league and district titles.
The Tigers achieved the first of those last Thursday, outlasting Moravian 1-0 in the Colonial League title game.
The Tigers capitalized on a corner play early in the first half and then got an outstanding effort from goal keeper Kyle Bellhorn.
The Tigers (19-1 overall, 12-0 Colonial League) earned their second championship in three years thanks to a goal by Jonathan Blaine that held up as the game-winner.
“My freshman year we won it,” said Blaine, a junior. “It’s the best feeling in the world to come out and get it again. It’s priceless.”
Blaine, a 6-foot-2 center back, scored on a corner play off an insert pass from Brett Scott just over 10 minutes into the game. They held on the rest of the way as Moravian came out in the second half and put the pressure on junior goal keeper Kyle Bellhorn.
“It was his best game all year,” said Scott. “He probably should have been a first team all star selection. He’s one of the best goal keepers in the league. He hadn’t been tested much all year but when he was he was up the challenge. It was a great game by him.”
The junior goalkeeper made 10 saves in the game, most of them coming in the second half.
“Kyle played huge,” said Northwestern head coach Nate Hunsicker. “He stood on his head and honestly stole this for us. I feel they outplayed us a little bit in the second half.”
Northwestern scored on a corner play it had been using all season, but had failed to convert until it counted most.
“I got a screen from our center back, Keegan Coffield, and tried to get to about the six area,” said Blaine. “Brett Scott played a perfect ball and I was there for the finish.”
“We set up the play,” said Scott, “so that Jonathan would be open on the back side. I just tried to put it on the back side of the six and he was there. It worked perfectly.
“I made solid contact and I saw the space. You knew halfway through the air that he was going to find the back of the net. That was a great thing.”
Blaine is also a vital part of a defensive unit that has helped the team allow just five goals this season.
“He’s a great center back, one of the best center backs in the league,” said Bellhorn. “I love seeing him go forward because he has the skills to put it in the back of the net and to keep it out of ours.”
The early goal might have been both a blessing and a curse. The defending league and Class A state champion Lions increased pressure throughout the second half, when Bellhorn came up with a pair of saves in the 74th minute. The first came on a shot from 35 yards out that he leaped to tap over the crossbar. The next came on a Lions corner.
“I love being put under pressure,” said Bellhorn. “It’s just a good opportunity to showcase what I have and what the defense has. The defense plays absolutely fantastic. I’m not as busy because of them.”
Northwestern has played with leads most of the season, but not often against teams as determined as Moravian Academy.
“The early goal allowed us to relax, which may or may not have been a great thing,” said Scott. “Because then in the second half we slowed down a little bit. But normally that first goal is very important because we can relax and play possession, which is what we love to do and what we excel at.”
Northwestern had an undefeated season going through its first 13 games of the season before falling to Salisbury in a nonleague meeting. They haven’t lost since and view that one setback as a wake up call.
“It made us pick our heads up,” said Scott. “We were undefeated and we realized we can be beat. That motivated us to work hard and practice and to always finish out our games.”
The Tigers earned the top seed in next week’s District 11 Class AA tournament with last night’s win. They will host a quarterfinal Thursday at 3:30 p.m. against the winner of Tuesday’s No. 9 Jim Thorpe-No. 8 Palisades game.
Northwestern allowed just three goals in Colonial League play during the regular season and won its two league playoff games with shut out.
The Lions (2014) and Tigers (2013, 15) have accounted for all of the last three league titles. Northwestern beat Moravian for the 2013 crown. The Lions beat Southern Lehigh for last year’s title.