After 120 minutes of play at Hersheypark Stadium against the Central Dauphin Rams on Saturday night, the Father Judge Crusaders made local sports history when they became the first high school soccer team from Philadelphia to win a Pennsylvania Interscholatic Athletic Association (PIAA) state championship. But this tremendous achievement was tempered by a rather strange rule: tied championship matches, according to PIAA rules, cannot be decided by penalty kicks. And so, to the disappointment of players on both teams, with the score at 0-0 after extra time, Father Judge and Central Dauphin were declared the 2009 Co-State Champions.
According to the Inquirer, “When the final horn sounded Saturday night, players on the Father Judge bench put their hands on their heads. Three Central Dauphin players collapsed to the turf at Hersheypark Stadium in disbelief. Fans in the stands booed.” The coaches and captains from each team then met in the center circle for a coin toss in order to determine which team would be awarded the championship trophy, and which would receive the player’s medals. Central Dauphin won the coin toss so they got the trophy. Father Judge’s will arrive by mail in a few days.
Said Father Judge forward Emmanuel Kollie after the game, “It’s a weird feeling . . . That’s not how a soccer game ends.” A Father Judge student, Kieran Walsh, who traveled on one of several buses from Father Judge to support his school’s team, told me that in the tough moments after such an anti-climatic finish, some Father Judge players said they would have rather lost on penalty kicks. Father Judge coach John Dunlop, who had nothing but praise for his side, told the Inquirer, “It’s always tough to talk to your boys after a situation like that . . . Boom. Season’s done.”
While such frustration is understandable, the Crusaders can take heart in what was an incredible season. This is only the second year that Philadelphia Catholic League (PCL) teams have been a part of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, having joined the PIAA in the 2008-2009 season. Father Judge was unstoppable in this year’s Catholic League championship series. They met stiffer opposition in the District 12 championship, which features teams from the PCL with those from Philadelphia Public League, but eaked out a 1-0 win over George Washington to advance to the next round of the state championship playoffs. There they bested Central Bucks East to go on to the final.
High school championships often pit teams with little or no knowledge of one another in high stake matches. As Central Dauphin coach Gregg Davis told the Patriot News, “When you don’t know much about your opponent, you have to learn on the fly.” And it seems that the mixed feelings about the co-champion title were shared by players on the Rams, even though it was also Central Dauphin’s first state championship. Said Rams midfielder Harry Snyder, “We didn’t lose. We didn’t lose a game in the state tournament, so in my eyes we did the best we could . . . We won the thing, but they also won the thing. It shouldn’t detract from what we did this season. It can’t detract from what we did.”
And Snyder is right – the players didn’t make the rules and both teams played their hearts out. Said Coach Dunlop, “They have to proud. They won’t understand this five years from now, really, what occurred through the whole year.”