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Boys reach District 11 title game

It might not have been the prettiest goal Sam Seyfried has ever scored.

But what it lacked in beauty, it more than made up for in importance.

Seyfried scored the game’s only goal as Northwestern defeated Southern Lehigh, 1-0, in a District 11 Class 3A boys soccer semifinal game on Tuesday at Palmerton.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a SportsCenter Top 10 goal or an ugly goal, they all count the same,” said Tiger coach Nate Hunsicker. “Sam scored off a mess in front and that’s all we needed.

“They say that defense wins championships and we played really good defense tonight, so that one goal was enough.”

Despite dominating the game in terms of ball possession and statistics, the Tigers were denied time-and-time again by Spartan goalie Constantine Zannakis.

But Seyfried made sure that for as good as Zannakis played, he wasn’t perfect.

His goal came with 25:48 remaining in the opening half when Southern Lehigh failed to clear a loose ball.

“It was kind of a jumble of people in the box,” said Seyfried. “The ball was at the feet of one of their defenders and he had trouble controlling it. I was able to poke it away with my one foot and then get a quick shot with the other.

“It might not have been pretty, but I don’t care. I don’t mind scoring a chippy goal, because a chippy goal is still a goal.”

Seyfried’s ability to pounce on the Southern Lehigh mistake and convert it into a goal is something that he prides himself on.

“I’ve been a striker since I started playing soccer,” said Seyfried. “One thing I was taught at a very young age was to never give up on a play because you never know when a defender or goalie will make a mistake.

“That’s a rule I’ve always tried to follow and it has paid off in a number of goals for me.”

The Tigers had several opportunities to add to their lead. The best of those chances came with just seconds remaining in the opening half when Northwestern was awarded a penalty kick after Southern Lehigh was called for a hand ball in front of the goal.

Zannakis made sure that mistake wasn’t costly to his team, however, when he made a diving save on Zachary Creighton’s rocket that appeared headed for the bottom left corner of the goal.

“Playoff soccer is not always pretty,” said Hunsicker. “Sure, I would have loved to see us hit the back of the net with a few more shots. But we missed some opportunities and their goalie came up big on some other occasions.

“I don’t think tonight was our best games. But in the end, all that matters is winning – and we found a way to do that.”

Because the Tigers found a way to win, they advance to Thursday’s championship game against Saucon Valley.

Northwestern will be looking for its fourth straight District 11 title.

“We’re excited to move on,” said Hunsicker. “We have a shot at another district championship. But I think our kids know if they want that to happen we need to play better than we did today.”

It was the third time Northwestern has defeated Southern Lehigh this season. The Tigers also won 3-2 during the regular season, and 3-0 in the Colonial League semifinals.

Northwestern is now 19-1-1 while Southern Lehigh finishes its season at 12-7-1.

PRESS PHOTO BY BOB FORDNorthwestern's Luke Bryan, right, and Southern Lehigh's Raul Ochotorena come together during Tuesday's playoff matchup.