Luke Campbell | Observer-Reporter
Captain Christian Verner, one of the few returning starters for the Peters Township High School boys soccer team, understands the rivalry built with North Allegheny over the years.
And while rosters have changed, especially from when these two teams met for the WPIAL Class 4A championship and in the PIAA quarterfinals last year, the familiarity with one another has remained the same.
It was Verner who made the difference Monday night.
Less than seven minutes into the first half, Verner was on the receiving end of a Brian Bruzdewicz’s low, shallow cross that gave seventh-seeded Peters Township a one-goal lead it would cling to for the remainder of the game as it defeated 10th-seeded North Allegheny, 1-0, in a WPIAL Class 4A first-round match.
“We lost a lot (of players) but know that we can still compete,” Verner said. “We knew coming in that this was our game to prove to everybody that we were ready for the playoffs.”
The win knocks out the two-time defending WPIAL champion Tigers. Peters Township (11-7) advances to the quarterfinals to play second-seeded Norwin Thursday at a site and time to be determined.
“There are a couple of kids that have come back and provided leadership. Christian is one of them,” said Peters Township coach Bob Dyer. “Tonight, when this is all foreign to these kids, the atmosphere and your season being on the line, Christian led the way. In practices and games, he’s been leading this team and has kept guys moving forward. We don’t get here without guys like that.”
The goal from Verner combined with a solid defensive effort and a few clutch clears, including when he preserved the lead with 23 minutes left in the second half by booting a loose ball from danger when the Indians had a vacated net, were crucial.
“The goal was big for us because I thought we came out a little flat. It helped us gain confidence,” Verner said. “But defensively, that was the best effort we’ve had all season. Everyone played their hearts out. We went in knowing we had to be solid, get the ball out and don’t allow anything easy.”
North Allegheny (10-6-1) gained a sense of urgency after Verner’s goal, creating several scoring chances throughout the remainder of the first half. The Tigers had multiple shots fly wide of PT goalkeeper Jackson Basar. Their best chances were a pair of near-post shots that Basar hugged confidently, and a header from a set piece that also fell into the senior keeper’s grasp with 10 minutes left until halftime.
“We like (our kids) to be disciplined, and we can’t give up the goal that we did. Everybody has to mark somebody,” said North Allegheny coach Bobby Vosmaer.
Five of North Allegheny’s six losses have been by one goal.
“If we play our normal game, I truly believe we should have won tonight,” he said.
In a choppy second half, Basar’s biggest save was when he secured a rare point-blank shot by North Allegheny’s Luke Anderson with 8:28 remaining.
It was the Indians ninth shutout victory this season.
“What you need from your keeper is to make the everyday saves and some where you rob (opponents) to win playoff games,” Dyer said. “I think he robbed them a couple times, and he was very steady in his decision making.”
Peters Township had a pair of chances to extend its lead but couldn’t capitalize. Bruzdewicz ripped a right-footed, 35-yard shot that smacked off of the crossbar with 24 seconds left in the first half. The Indians also failed to convert on a penalty kick with just over 13 minutes remaining in regulation.
Luke Campbell/Staff Writer
Luke Campbell has been handling a multitude of tasks since joining the Observer-Reporter in 2015, following his graduation from Waynesburg University. He graduated from Waynesburg with a bachelor’s degree in sports broadcasting and information.