There was nothing routine about Thursday night’s semifinal soccer match between Northeast High School and Samuel Fels.
A persistent drizzle that fell on the field throughout the first half became a fierce downpour by the second half. Players slipped. They sprinted up and down the field, half-blinded by the rain in their eyes.
But none of that seemed important.
All that mattered was the score.
Northeast soaked up a thrilling victory, downing Fels, 4-1, for the Public League Class AAA semifinal win. With the triumph, the Vikings’ soccer team extended its overall record to 11-1-1.
“I think we dug down deep to come up with that win,” said Northeast coach Sam Feldman. “When the weather got worse, we got more determined and got better.”
Northeast put four goals on the scoreboard courtesy of Sam Chen, Kevin Kureta, Richard Laurent and Shavar Shepherd.
Senior goaltender Howard Lynn had five saves for the Vikings. The only Panther to get the ball past him was Samuel Fels captain Musa Kamara.
“I’m feeling so good right now,” said Lynn. “Our next step is Washington, and if we play like we did today, we’ll have no problem beating Washington.”
(Northeast battled longtime rival George Washington High School in the Public League championship. The game was played after the Times went to press this week.)
“I was very confident today,” added Lynn. “We knew that Fels was a good team. They beat us in the regular season, 3-2 in double overtime, but I felt good about our team today because we all went out there and played like a family. We have good coaching and good players that play together.”
At the start of the season, on Sept. 7, it was the Panthers celebrating their victory over Northeast. It would be the Vikings’ only loss of the season. The Panthers went on to compile a 10-3 overall record, including five shutouts.
“It was a tough game. They played hard,” Lynn said of the Fels soccer squad. “It was so crazy with the rain. The first half wasn’t that bad, but the second half was terrible. That’s when everyone started getting soaked.
“Every time I kicked the ball, I would just see puddles coming off of my head. It was raining so hard,” he added. “I actually couldn’t catch anything with my hands because of the gloves, but it worked out for the best.”
Playing in dreadful weather is nothing new for the tri-sport athlete. Lynn also has played for the Northeast High School football and baseball teams over the past three years — and has endured his share of rain-soaked games.
“Howard has been doing everything I expected him to do. He’s a leader both on and off the field for a lot of our kids,” said Feldman. “I’ve had him for four years of baseball and four years of soccer. Howard is going to give you 110 percent all the time. That’s what you expect and that’s what you get.”
In addition to guiding the Vikings’ soccer squad to the championship game this season, he’s a kicker for his school’s defending champion football team.
Northeast went 3-3 in the Public League Gold Division this season, good enough for a berth into the football postseason. But the Vikings’ dreams of another title were dashed on Friday afternoon — Central beat Northeast, 28-20, in the first round of the playoffs.
“Football is all right. We’re working hard this season,” said Lynn, who had 15 extra-point kicks and three field goals.
Lynn first got a taste of championship glory last year, when he helped the Vikings win the Public League football crown for the first time since 1983.
Now he’s hungry for more.
“I’m hoping this could be the next one,” said Lynn, as he looked toward the championship soccer game against Washington. “I got a jacket last year and I’m hoping to get another one for next year. I want the new jacket for when I get out to college, so I can represent Northeast.”
Lynn has applied to various colleges while making plans for his future. He wants to study industrial management and continue his athletic career.
ldquo;I want to play all three sports — that’s my life. That’s what I do,” said Lynn. “I want to play for my mother, Patricia. That’s who I’m playing for.
“I’m trying to make a good living for myself so I can help my mother out when I grow up,” he added. “She was a single mom my whole life. She made sure everything was there for us no matter what. She made sure there was always food on the table and everything. This is all for her.” ••
Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at email@example.com
Northeast faced George Washington in the Public League soccer championship on Tuesday evening. Visit www.BSMPhilly.com on Wednesday for all the game action.