Pallotti 2 — Sts. Peter & Paul 0
EASTON — Roderick Lawrence was returning to his bench after exchanging postgame pleasantries with Saints Peter and Paul High boys’ head soccer coach G.R. Cannon when he suddenly stopped to search for Sabres senior goalkeeper Cory Morgan.
St. Vincent Pallotti’s assistant could be heard on a handful of occasions Thursday yelling, “Good save goalie,” in the season finale for both schools. But Lawrence wanted to further acknowledge Morgan’s sparkling play with an elbow bump before walking back to his bench to pack up for the bus ride home.
Morgan lunged right and left to make stops, leaped to punch away incoming corner kicks and shots, and hit the dirt to smother rebounds during a nine-save performance. But it wasn’t enough to compensate for a lack of offense as the Sabres concluded their abbreviated season with a 2-0 loss to the Panthers.
“He did play well,” Cannon said of Morgan. “He always plays well. He’s consistently very good.”
But the Sabres (0-4) were consistently plagued by injuries this season — starters Ben Schroeder and Alex Urquhart were sidelined yesterday — and struggled to put any real heat on Pallotti goalies John Bunge and Travis Holiday.
“We’re short,” Cannon said of his offense.
Sts. Peter & Paul mustered some pressure on Bunge in the opening minutes with throw-ins that bounded through the box with no one on the receiving end or were quickly cleared away. The Sabres made a few pushes into the Panthers end over the final 70 minutes, but didn’t really test Pallotti’s two keepers.”
“I think all things considered everybody did what they could, but when you’re short on goals you’re not going to win games that way,” Cannon said.
The Sabres have also paid for mistakes this season, and in the eighth minute Pallotti (7-1) capitalized on a miscue, when James Ikebudu headed a ball off a corner kick past Morgan’s reach.
“I think their first goal, I truly think it was their first time in our end,” Cannon said. “That’s kind of been the way it is in the season. We start brightly, maybe on the front foot, and then you give up that (first goal) and now you’re playing behind the eight ball if you will. It’s hard to do that at this level.”
Morgan made a nice sliding save with 24:20 left in the first half, then made another with over 15 minutes remaining. But the Sabres failed to clear and Pallotti controlled a loose before an unmarked Ayotomiwa Olagoke-Bello gained possession about eight yards off the right post and buried the ball for a two-goal cushion with 14:52 left before halftime.
“They sat deeper, they were athletic,” Cannon said of Pallotti. “They had something something that the coaching staff — which I give them a lot of credit — worked for them. They got in behind us on the break and they made us pay on two set pieces.”
The Panthers had a number of chances to pad their lead in the second half, but Morgan continued to deliver one impressive save after another to keep the Sabres within striking distance. He moved right, then reached back across his body to make one stop near the goal line 6 minutes into the second half, and later foiled a point-blank blast with just over 19 minutes remaining.
While Cannon praised his goalie, he didn’t make excuses for his team’s firepower shortage.
“You’re trying to get somebody to perform, that wants to step up and win a job, and quite frankly, as you saw, we were rotating people to try to … who wants to help?” said Cannon, who was hoping to find more support for Shawn Reinoehl, Keller Daniels, Danny Reyes, Ben McCalmon and Ethan Nesselroad. “You can’t play four men down. I hate to say that, but that’s what we did.”