Leader of the pack

“Kev­in is a great lead­er… we rely on him. We let him move and every­body else kind of fol­lows. He’s our team cap­tain. He’s ranked in the top of his class. He’s a great ex­ample of a stu­dent ath­lete.” — Fath­er Judge coach John Dun­lop, re­fer­ring to Kev­in Pohl.

Win­ning cham­pi­on­ships is noth­ing new for Kev­in Pohl. 

He helped the Fath­er Judge High School soc­cer team claim Cath­ol­ic League, city and state titles in 2009. And over the sum­mer he com­peted for the Yard­ley-Make­field Soc­cer na­tion­al cham­pi­on­ship squad. 

Now he’s back for more. 

A seni­or mid­field­er for the Cru­saders, Pohl is on a mis­sion to re­cap­ture that Cath­ol­ic League title. And if last week’s comeback vic­tory over de­fend­ing cham­pi­on St. Joseph Prep is any in­dic­a­tion, the Cru­saders are on their way. 

Fath­er Judge ral­lied from a 4-1 de­fi­cit to over­come the Prep, 5-4, on Oct. 6, and then downed Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic, 2-1, the fol­low­ing af­ter­noon. The Cru­saders are now 7-1 in Cath­ol­ic League play (8-3 over­all). 

“It was a hard battle. We came out really flat in the first half, but we were able to come out strong in the second half,” Pohl said after the comeback over Prep. “I think we were just un­der­prepared. We were hav­ing trouble mov­ing the ball. I guess in the second half, be­ing down three goals, we got fired up.”

The Hawks moun­ted a hefty lead early, thanks to two goals from Tolu Ibikunle and goals from Jeff Cas­key and Colin McGlynn. Fath­er Judge for­ward Justin Hiltwine net­ted the Cru­saders’ only goal in the first half of game ac­tion. 

After half­time, though, it was all Cru­saders, all the way. 

Fath­er Judge staged an in­cred­ible comeback ig­nited by a Pohl pen­alty kick in the open­ing minutes of the second half. 

“He put us back in with a PK, mak­ing it 4-2,” said Fath­er Judge coach John Dun­lop. “That got us there. If you miss that, it could be a dif­fer­ent game. That was an im­port­ant one. He did it on a beau­ti­ful shot. He got us go­ing, and every­body else fol­lowed.”

Seni­or mid­field­er Rich My­chack struck next, fol­lowed by sopho­more for­ward Joey Hansen’s ty­ing goal 16 minutes in­to the half. 

With the score locked at four apiece, it looked like a shootout might have to de­term­ine the win­ner. But the game-win­ning goal — My­chack’s second of the af­ter­noon — came in the 78th minute and sealed a re­mark­able win for the Cru­saders. 

“Today was kind of a unique game. That’s why we play two halves,” Dun­lop said. “They (Prep) came out strong and kind of took it to us in the first half. We didn’t pan­ic. We changed our lineup and caused some con­fu­sion with the backs. The guys dug in and fought for it. Now they’re re­war­ded for their hard work. 

“That’s a huge char­ac­ter lift, es­pe­cially in this league, play­ing a good team like St. Joe’s,” he con­tin­ued. “It didn’t look pretty in the first half, but the fi­nal score says 5-4. We’ll take it. We’ll go back to the draw­ing board, work on our mis­takes. We had some mis­takes that they took ad­vant­age of — which good teams do — and we have to make sure that doesn’t hap­pen the next time.”

Next up on the sched­ule was Arch­bish­op Ry­an on Tues­day. The game was played after the Times went to press this week. 

“The sea­son is go­ing well. We’ve been over­looked by a lot of teams,” said Pohl. “We wer­en’t really ex­pec­ted to be good, and we know that. So we try to use that to get fired up for the next game.”

Pohl has been on the Cru­saders’ varsity squad for three years, con­trib­ut­ing to the 2009 Cath­ol­ic League and state cham­pi­on team as a sopho­more. Fath­er Judge went 22-2-2 that sea­son en route to its first state cham­pi­on­ship in school his­tory. It also was the first time a team from Phil­adelphia brought home the state title.

“When I was a sopho­more, the seni­ors were really good,” Pohl re­called. “We ended up ty­ing for the state cham­pi­on­ship. It set high ex­pect­a­tions. Not a lot of play­ers get to play in a state fi­nal, es­pe­cially as a sopho­more. Now I know what it took to get to the state fi­nals, so I try to emu­late that in my play.”

In the classroom, Pohl is an hon­or stu­dent ranked 24th in his class. He classes in­clude ad­vanced-place­ment cal­cu­lus and phys­ics. 

On the field, he’s a team co-cap­tain — along with My­chack, Hiltwine and Nick Battaglia — and also has played for the Yard­ley-Make­field Thun­der travel soc­cer team. Over the sum­mer, the squad cap­tured the U.S. Youth Soc­cer na­tion­al cham­pi­on­ship in the U18 Di­vi­sion dur­ing the tour­na­ment in Phoenix Ar­iz. 

ldquo;Kev­in is a great lead­er. He’s for­tu­nate to play on a na­tion­al cham­pi­on­ship team, so he’s ex­per­i­enced,” said Dun­lop. “We rely on him. We let him move, and every­body else kind of fol­lows. He’s our team cap­tain. He’s ranked in the top of his class. He’s a great ex­ample of a stu­dent ath­lete.” ••

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

You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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