Judge soccer upended by W.C. Rustin in state playoffs

A Gat­o­rade shower for a coach fol­low­ing a game at any level usu­ally sig­ni­fies a vic­tory cel­eb­ra­tion is com­ing.

For the Fath­er Judge soc­cer team, giv­ing head coach John Dun­lop one more un­ex­pec­ted bath on a cool early Novem­ber even­ing was more of a sign of ap­pre­ci­ation.

The Cru­saders entered Tues­day night’s PI­AA Class AAA first round state play­off con­test with West Chester Rustin as heavy fa­vor­ites; un­for­tu­nately for Dun­lop and his 14 seni­ors that brought Judge Cath­ol­ic League and Dis­trict 12 city titles this sea­son, they trudged off the field de­feated in a 1-0 loss.

The res­ult was a co­lossal dis­ap­point­ment for the Cru­saders, who nev­er really looked like the team that won 20 of its 21 games pri­or to this night, many in dom­in­ant fash­ion. There would be no re­peat of 2009 — when Judge was crowned co-champs of the state with Cent­ral Dauph­in — but Dun­lop tried to keep things in per­spect­ive when ad­dress­ing his team af­ter­ward. If the Gat­o­rade shower in the low-mid 40’s was any in­dic­a­tion, the mes­sage was re­ceived by his vet­er­an team.

“I told them that 20-2, a Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ship and a city cham­pi­on­ship was something to really be proud of,” Dun­lop said, his hair and fleece still sat­ur­ated with the con­tents of the cool­er. “That 2009 team was a spe­cial team, and it’s hard to re­peat the things you do in life. It’s a dif­fi­cult thing to do, a dif­fi­cult pro­cess, and we played a very well-coached and well-pre­pared team.

“A group of seni­ors like we had, they’re classy and pro­fes­sion­al, and good ex­amples for the the young­er guys com­ing through the pro­gram. It will take a bit of time to di­gest what we ac­com­plished, but you have to keep it pos­it­ive. They have to re­mem­ber what they’ve done for this com­munity and the en­tire school.”

It was just a week earli­er that an over­flow crowd at Arch­bish­op Ry­an’s George Todt Field greeted the Cru­saders for a rauc­ous on-field cel­eb­ra­tion fol­low­ing the 3-1 vic­tory over Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic that brought the school a coveted league title (the Cru­saders had fallen in the title game in 2011 and 2012). Judge fans and stu­dents took turns lift­ing Dun­lop and seni­ors like Joey Hansen and Ry­an Nork on top of an enorm­ous cel­eb­rat­ory pile.

This time, at North­east’s Charles Mar­tin Sta­di­um, there were no such joy­ous ges­tures. Judge’s spec­tat­ors were kept mostly in check, ex­cept when they were voicing their dis­pleas­ure with the of­fi­cials, who handed out three second half yel­low cards to Hansen, Geoff De­g­nan and Dav­id Rodrig­uez — all Judge seni­ors.

The feared Judge of­fense, led by the tan­dem of Nork and Hansen (both La Salle Uni­versity com­mits), was meth­od­ic­ally shut down by Rustin’s de­fense all night. Whenev­er the Cru­saders ap­plied pres­sure, the Golden Knights (17-6) had an an­swer. So it was Rustin seni­or mid­field­er Jay Ringer’s goal — a flick off the toe in­side the Judge goal­mouth that slipped past keep­er Danny Sulp­iz­io — in the 26th minute of the first half that proved to be the dif­fer­ence.

“They took a lot of the middle away from Nork and Hansen, which we kind of ex­pec­ted,” Dun­lop said. “It wasn’t our best game, but when you get to this level you play teams that are just as good as you, and some­times it’s just luck with the way the ball bounces.”

There’s no get­ting around the fact that Judge will look very dif­fer­ent in 2014. High school ath­let­ics are cyc­lic­al in nature; fresh­men even­tu­ally be­come seni­ors, leav­ing coaches with the chal­lenge of hav­ing to re­place ir­re­place­able play­ers each and every year. For Dun­lop, this task will be es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult, giv­en the qual­ity of this year’s seni­or class both on and off the field.

“It’s been my pleas­ure, and I ap­pre­ci­ate everything they’ve done for us,” Dun­lop said. “It’s been a lot of fun. The re­la­tion­ships we built were built for life. It’s been really spe­cial for me to be a part of something like this. We’ve been to five league cham­pi­on­ships in the last sev­en years, and these seni­ors have been to three of them. Some people might call it a dyn­asty … me, I’m just proud of them, to see these kids come in as boys and leave as young men with what they’ve done in the classroom and on the field … I’m one of the hap­pi­est coaches around, and I’m blessed to be in this situ­ation.”

Dun­lop made sure to hug each and every seni­or fol­low­ing the loss, and he thanked all of his play­ers “from the bot­tom of my heart.” He also ac­know­ledged the res­ult be­ing “a tough one to swal­low, and I un­der­stand that,” but Dun­lop told his team to really think about what they ac­com­plished as a group as they move for­ward with their lives.

“It is sad that it has to end,” he ad­mit­ted. “But I think they’ll real­ize when they wake up that they’re leav­ing with a great back­bone of aca­dem­ics and ath­let­ics that will pre­pare them for the next four years, as well as the rest of their lives to come. We play this game for the love of it and the re­la­tion­ships we build, and all of that is go­ing to last.”

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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