By Tom Robinson, NEPASports Nation
MOSCOW – Alex Pagotto got up in the air to send home headers on corner kicks from opposite sides in each half Tuesday night, helping put the finishing touches on a dominant performance that carried North Pocono to the first Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association boys soccer state tournament victory in school history.
“This was a big one for us,” North Pocono coach Graig Arcurie said after the Trojans downed visiting District 4 champion Danville, 4-1, in Class 3A game, carrying a shutout into the final 2½ minutes.
The Trojans used the win to secure a spot in Saturday’s quarterfinals against Archbishop Wood.
“The last week of the regular season, we were really starting to find the form to play the best that we can,” Arcurie said. “Obviously, we’ve played well the entire season, but we shuffled some guys around with the lineup and we really found out where we have the best 11 in their best 11 spots.
“Then, last week in the (district) playoffs, we really dominated in the three games and we built a lot of confidence from one game to next.”
North Pocono piled up advantages of 30-5 in shots and 8-0 in corner kicks.
The Trojans led 2-0 at halftime and had two more shots go off of posts, then were even stronger for most of the second half.
“It was a matter of being able to execute in the run of play and being able to execute in our set pieces and we did both today,” Arcurie said.
Jake Silva assisted both first-half goals. Silva and Jonah Yurkanin each placed corner kicks perfectly, high and nearly to the back post where Pagotto won the battle in the air for his two goals.
Yurkanin took all the corner kicks early in the year, but Silva developed into a left-footed option to take half, depending which corner the Trojans are starting from.
“We’re just looking for that back post run,” Silva said. “Just place the ball and they run on to it and work all that magic.”
It was Pagotto who made the magic happen Tuesday.
“We have guys that are really good in the air,” Arcurie said. “We’re confident in our guys’ ability to win those one-on-one battles in the air.”
The Trojans kept in on the ground for the first goal, with Silva sending a pass ahead to Eliot Bowen, who fired from the right wing off the left post and in 11:39 into the game.
Pagotto’s first goal came from Silva with 10:32 left in the half.
Before Danville escaped to intermission, Cayden Lougee hit the post twice.
Lougee wound up converting on the first of Yurkanin’s two assists 8:37 into the second half.
Pagotto’s second goal midway through was part of North Pocono taking the first 14 shots of the second half.
“We just weren’t prepared for the pace they had,” Danville coach Brian Dressler said.
Jordan Carr made three saves before P.J. Cera broke the shutout with 2:28 left.
The Lackawanna League Division 1 and District 2 Class 3A champions improved to 19-1-2.
The Trojans limited the chances by the Ironmen, holding them to just one shot for a stretch of 51 minutes while remaining unbeaten in the last 18 games.