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EHS tops FHS in D-11 finals

If Freedom boys soccer coach Tyler Nolan said the word, tough, once, he said it 10 times after the Patriots’ 2-1 loss in the District XI Class 4A final against Emmaus on Nov. 4 at Whitehall High School.

“It was just two calls that changed the movement of the game,” Coach Nolan said. “It’s tough because I thought we deserved to get something out of the game, and it stinks that you get two penalties scored on you.”

Before the penalties, however, Freedom midfielder Michael Deluhery’s shot to the top of the net on an assist by Corey James in the third minute was the match’s first goal.

“We’ve been focusing on starting games a little better. Northampton jumped on us the first 10, 15 minutes of the semis, we responded and got two goals before half,” said Nolan. “To get a goal early gave us confidence. They had to tweak some things and change some things, but again, I thought we started really, really well. I was really happy in that facet.”

Freedom’s defense continued to hold back Emmaus as Marcus Brown tied up Hornet forward Marcus Puentes. Connor Blake and Logan Shupp cleared Puentes’ ball out of the box, and on Puentes’ corner kick, the ball was headed out by Shupp.

Freedom goalie Micah Lawser (9 saves) slid feet first and dove to his right for two huge saves. In between the two, Emmaus goalie Colin Wilson (9 saves) fell on a shot by Freedom forward Ryan Freeman-Nield.

Then, in the 22nd minute, Emmaus forward Ryan Kiernan scored the equalizer on a penalty kick after Kiernan and Brown went for a ball, and Brown was called for the foul.

“From a former center back, it’s tough because you’re in a position where you can’t do much,” said Nolan. “He’s back, and the forward’s backpedaling into you. There’s not really much Marcus can do. As I said to the ref, I thought he lost balance. It’s unfortunate they get a goal off of that. I think it changed the momentum of the game, certainly.”

In the last few minutes of the first half, Blake took two corner kicks before a shot by the Patriot junior went just wide.

With three seconds remaining until halftime, Deluhery was fouled by Emmaus’s Callum Harvey, but Wilson made the save on Deluhery’s free kick.

“First 20, 25 minutes of the game we played well,” Nolan said. “We got a goal, we were doing well, and we settled into the game well. Things happen. The refs make a call. We have to live with it.”

A call against the Pates in the second half resulted in the game winner for the Hornets after Blake tried to help Lawser on a shot by Kiernan, but the ball inadvertently bounced off Blake’s arm.

Kiernan converted the penalty kick in the 55th minute to put the Hornets ahead, 2-1.

“Yeah, it was the right play, and it’s tough,” Nolan said of Blake’s play. “He’s in there, trying to defend, and it just hits him, and I feel bad for Connor because he’s a phenomenal kid, and he’s worked his butt off all season.”

Nolan said he asked the referees, like he always does, that they be 100 percent sure when they make a call. Nolan was told they were sure.

Deluhery was awarded a free kick soon after Kiernan’s penalty kick, but the ball just missed the goal, grazing the near post.

In the last 10 minutes, Shupp made two great runs for the Pates, Brady Sutton had two free kicks, and Shupp’s header fell short.

Nolan’s program will graduate six seniors: Dominik Roszkowski, Corey James, Marcus Brown, Daniel Soleymani, Luke Braido, and Cameron Kashner.

“It’s a phenomenal group. I’ve truly enjoyed showing up every day to practice, every day to a game, the bus rides are fun, and they’re a super personable, awesome group of kids. I’m really gonna miss them,” Nolan said of the team. “They were willing to take risks, and sometimes you don’t get that. They were willing to take chances and be challenged, and that’s what our goal was. We said, if you want to take the next step and compete against the good programs like Emmaus and Parkland, we have to take our steps up, and I think we certainly did that.”

Press photo by Mark Lineberger Freedom's Connor Blake loses a race to the ball and the Emmaus keeper during last week's District 11 finals loss to the Hornets.