Eagles claim Public League crown

In a cham­pi­on­ship soc­cer game fea­tur­ing teams as evenly matched as North­east High and George Wash­ing­ton, the vic­tor would have to play per­fectly to claim the title. 

Wash­ing­ton did. 

The mighty Eagles soared past long­time rival North­east High, 2-1, in the Pub­lic League’s Class AAA fi­nals on Tues­day night at Charles Mar­tin Me­mori­al Sta­di­um. They also ex­ten­ded their un­defeated sea­son to 13-0-1. 

Seni­or striker Wilo Mim­bar net­ted both goals for the Eagles, zip­ping the game-win­ner past North­east goalie Howard Lynn in the 67th minute of game ac­tion, thanks to a nearly per­fect as­sist from fresh­man standout Mo­hamed Conde.

“It feels great! I want to thank God for this, for keep­ing me fo­cused and help­ing us win,” Mim­bar said after the title tri­umph. “It took a lot of hard work and prac­tice, but I be­lieved in my team­mates.

“Some of them were nervous, but for me — even though this was my first cham­pi­on­ship — I wasn’t nervous at all,” he ad­ded. “I knew if we gave it our all, we would win the cham­pi­on­ship.” 

Mim­bar’s two goals brought his sea­son tally to 27, just one goal shy of ty­ing the George Wash­ing­ton school re­cord es­tab­lished by John Dun­lop, who is now the head coach at Fath­er Judge High School.  

“On the field, it was num­ber 21 all over the place,” said Wash­ing­ton coach Chris Re­id, re­fer­ring to Mim­bar, “but if it wasn’t for Mo­hamed mak­ing that thirty-five-yard cross, we wouldn’t have an op­por­tun­ity to do what we did.” 

Both schools were heav­ily rep­res­en­ted by loy­al fans who crowded the bleach­ers equipped with cheers, homemade signs and, of course, vuvuzela horns.

The first half was swift back-and-forth ac­tion. Wash­ing­ton’s de­fense ex­celled, con­sist­ently dis­rupt­ing North­east’s power­ful lineup. The game was sco­re­less for 25 minutes, un­til Mim­bar punted the only goal of the first half.

After the half­time break, North­east came back with a score to settle. Seni­or striker Kev­in Kur­eta tied the game just 40 seconds in­to the second half. The Vik­ings con­tin­ued to battle while ap­ply­ing pres­sure on Wash­ing­ton’s rook­ie goal­tender, Dan­nill Para­skevov, but the sopho­more guarded the Eagles’ net like a pro. He re­cor­ded sev­en saves.

For North­east, it was a war un­til the bit­ter end. The Vik­ings hit the post twice in the fi­nal two minutes but were un­able to score. 

“Wow! One goal away! I thought that was it — over­time goal right there. I think I had a little heart at­tack right there,” said Para­skevov after the game, re­fer­ring to the pair of post hits. “I feel such re­lief! So much pres­sure just van­ished. To win as a sopho­more start­ing on varsity, this is the best feel­ing.

“Team­work was def­in­itely what brought us here,” he ad­ded. “Wilo, Mo­hamed, it’s all in the team. You need a team to win. We needed every­one on this team to win to­night. It’s all in the team­work.”

The George Wash­ing­ton squad had un­der­gone a big re­struc­tur­ing of its roster halfway through the sea­son. They lost the ser­vices of five play­ers — in­clud­ing their start­ing goal­keep­er — be­cause of an al­ter­ca­tion dur­ing school. 

The tim­ing couldn’t have been worse. The Eagles had just one reg­u­lar-sea­son game re­main­ing and an un­defeated re­cord to de­fend. 

“I lost three starters and two first guys off the bench mid­way through,” said Re­id. “These kids here really de­serve this. They worked so hard dur­ing prac­tice and lead­ing up to this with all the non­sense we went through this year.

“They’re a good group who did a lot of good things up to this point,” he ad­ded. “Everything they’ve done, they’ve done to­geth­er. Through the good and the bad, they battled.”

The title is George Wash­ing­ton’s first Pub­lic League soc­cer crown since 2009; the Eagles’ last un­defeated re­cord oc­curred in 1984.

The Eagles will com­pete in the Dis­trict 12 AAA title game on Thursday night against the win­ner of today’s Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ship between Fath­er Judge and La Salle.  

“I’m feel­ing great. I think we got a little lucky, to be hon­est with you, but we worked hard for this,” said Re­id. “North­east played well. They’re a great team. It was an ex­cit­ing game to be part of.” ••

Ed­it­or Melissa Yerkov can be reached at my­erkov@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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