Northeast boys take NTL East lead
LERAYSVILLE - For 75 minutes, it looked like Troy was going to come away with the win.
They had gotten up early and weathered some of the Panther's best punches to make it look like their 2-1 advantage was going to stick.
Then Northeast Bradford's Isaiah McPherson showed why he is one of the most feared strikers in the NTL.
With 4:30 left, McPherson got behind the Troy defense for the first time and buried his shot past the Trojan goalie to tie the game 2-2.
The shot not only breathed new life into his team, it sucked the air out of the Trojans.
In the 79th minute, Panther Alan Vough scored to finish the rally and pushed Northeast to a 3-2 win in NTL boy's soccer action Thursday.
"It was a long time coming," McPherson said. "It felt great. Troy's always a tough team but we prevailed."
The senior was starting to get anxious as time ticked away.
"I was nervous," McPherson said. "I knew I had to beat those guys down field, I pushed through the pain and everything."
Last game Northeast led 2-0 with Troy coming back to force a 2-2 tie. Both teams came in undefeated with the winner in the driver's seat for an NTL East soccer title.
This time, it was Troy starting off fast.
After the teams traded possessions Troy took control of the game, forcing the action at the Panther's end of the field.
In a scramble in front of the net Troy's Shane Miller used a backwards pass to Collin Binford, who buried it into the open net to put the Trojans up 1-0 just under seven minutes into the game.
Northeast would retaliate.
A few minutes later, Aaron Pifer just missed a Colton Snyder cross to even things up.
No matter as on the Panther's next foray into Troy's third of the field McPherson lined up a 30 yard shot from the right side of the field and buried it past Troy's keeper in the top right corner of the goal to knot the game up at 1-1 with 28:35 left to play.
"I knew we had to get at least one in," McPherson said. "We knew we had to start ripping from outside."
Troy didn't waste anytime to strike back.
After two missed opportunities in front of the net, one player's shot went over the cross bar of an open net while Zajac blocked another, Binford struck again. This time it was off an Evan Polly pass that he headed into the back of the goal at the 27:22 mark.
"They pushed real hard in the beginning of the first half," Zajac said about Troy's attack. "It just picked our defense right apart."
The furious early pace set by the Trojans wouldn't hold but they still continued to push the action at Northeast's end. Troy's Thomas Swain had a shot hit the cross-bar while Miller had an on target cross that couldn't connect.
Zajac and his defense held strong the rest of the half to keep it a 2-1 Troy advantage.
In the second half things started much like the first, with Troy applying more pressure but Zajac snuffed it out with a diving save.
"I was just reacting," Zajac said about his play on the field. "Saw the ball, going to it."
Then things got worse for the Panthers as with 24 minutes left Snyder had to leave with an injury and didn't return.
"He's one of our best players," McPherson remarked.
"He carries the team," added Zajac. "He helps us out a whole lot. Just to know that if he gets hurt we can all pick up the slack and carry it out. It makes us all feel real good and real confident for the rest of the season."
Northeast used the injury as a rallying point, applying pressure in the Troy third of the field.
They had a chance on one cross but the header went over the cross-bar.
Troy looked hold off the Panther attack and once again worked to control possession and keep the action in the middle and Northeast's third of the field.
That's when McPherson struck on a through ball got past the Troy defense. McPherson got a touch before Troy's keeper Jason Esaias could get to it. The striker then kicked it past the charging Trojan goalie and into the net.
After the tying goal Northeast continued to pressure Troy with Vough's goal coming off a rebound. He fired a shot from about 25 yards out and it was out of reach of Troy's keeper to earn the win.
The biggest key for Northeast was holding Troy scoreless the second half.
"After we adjusted to what they did we locked it down and held them off," Zajac explained.
Despite being down the senior keeper wasn't worried as he knew that his team could strike at any time.
"With our last two games out scoring opponents 18-0 I had no worries at all," Zajac said. "I know our team can produce goals if they need to."
Troy out shot Northeast 9-7 with most of the Trojan shots coming inside the box while many of Northeast's on goal attempts came on long shots.
Zajac made seven saves while also stopping many other Trojan attempts in the goal. Troy's Esaias came away with six saves on net.
With the win Northeast secured a perfect record at home and are three wins away from winning the school's first ever NTL East title.