A good coach is ready for anything.
So Tulpehocken’s Trevor Brown was ready when his team gathered around him after his Class 1A District 3 men’s soccer semifinal match against High Point on Saturday – complete with a bag of chocolate.
The landslide 1-0 win over the Eagles at Don Thomas Stadium in Exeter sends the defending champions to Hersheypark Stadium for Wednesday’s final and sent the Trojans across the pitch to toss chunks of that chocolate into the stands at their fans .
“It sounds like a dream,” said Tyrese Sanchez, who headed the game’s only goal in the first half. “To go play at Hersheypark. … I still can’t believe it right now.
The Trojans were denied that trip a year ago due to COVID-19 – the finals were held at neutral venues – and the Eagles won them over on Saturday.
This celebratory getaway was the only time that second-seeded High Point didn’t frustrate and stop third-seeded Tulpehocken.
“Credit to High Point,” Brown said. “They had a great game plan. Frustrated us endlessly. Fortunately, we slipped one in the first half and that’s all we needed. High Point played very well. But we’ve been tough all year, getting the results.
“It’s a lousy win, but at this time of year, a win is a win. It’s all that matters.”
Tulpehocken (16-4-2), who also nabbed a place in the PIAA playoffs with the victory, will face fourth-seeded Camp Hill or West Shore Christian in the final.
High Point (16-3) will face the loser of this semifinal for a state playoff spot in the third-place game on Wednesday, location and time to be determined.
The Eagles entered Saturday’s game knowing they had to try to slow Eliecer Aguirre and Mason Lillis of Tulpehocken down. They designed their game plan with this in mind, trying to limit the Trojans’ open space while hoping to secure opportunities for their top two attacking players, Andrew Cox and Aleb Spacek.
It almost paid off with the first goal of the game.
Cox sent a hard blow that hit the underside of the crossbar and rebounded with 29:14 left in the first half.
The Trojans pierced Sanchez’s goal as he headed the ball on a Weston Campbell pass with 21:33 left in the first half.
“We passed the ball to Weston and then I had a wide end post,” said Sanchez, a senior who lost a contact lens just after scoring. “And I saw him go for it, and it was the perfect ball, right on my head, beat the goalkeeper. It was a nice ball from him.
“It was a great finish,” said Brown.
Tulpehocken had a few more chances the rest of the course – the Trojans dominated possession and outscored the Eagles 7-1, including 5-0 in the second half – but goaltender Trey Filby made some impressive saves.
“I’m really proud of the way the guys played,” High Point co-coach Jim Cox said. “Every guy we put on the field, I feel like they gave it their all. I have the impression that they continued to fight.
“They left everything on the pitch.
The Eagles are looking to continue a season of firsts by qualifying for the States. Jim Cox said it was the program’s first district semi-final.
“At the start of the season, we knew they and Camp Hill were potential favorites,” said Eagles co-coach Tim Spacek. “We wanted to be disruptors but we also wanted to go out and have a respectable performance against a top team in the county and I felt like we did. We don’t have too many opportunities to play in the Berks County public schools.
The Trojans, who have signed their 15th shutout of the season, are also chasing history. They will be aiming for their 11th district title in their 16th league game. They last won back-to-back championships in 2015-16.
“You carry a target when you’re the champion and we knew it would be tough and while I don’t think we did our best today, we got the job done,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere at Hershey and I can’t wait.