A pair of “golden goals” propelled Canon-McMillan to a 3-2 victory and prevented Mt. Lebanon from pocketing its 10th district title during the WPIAL Quad-A boys’ championship soccer match played Oct. 31 at Highmark Stadium.
With 1:02 remaining in regulation, Luke Gladden scored the equalizer, forcing overtime and 2:06 into the extra period, Joey Fonagy notched the game winner for the Big Macs, earning them their third WPIAL crown since 2012.
“It’s hard to find the right words after a hard-fought loss,” said Bill Perz, who played on Lebo’s WPIAL championship club in 2002 before becoming the school’s head coach in 2015. “It took an amazing strike for them to get back into it and they finished it off in overtime.”
Fonagy finished off the Blue Devils with a header but Gladden played a key role, setting up the winning tally.
“Joey has been a big component in the air for us,” Gladden said. “I played it across the box and big body Joey Fonagy was just there to finish and send us home with a WPIAL championship.”
Gladden sent the contest into overtime. Facing a 2-1 deficit, Gladden rocketed the ball toward the net from five yards outside the box. His shot ricocheted off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net to tie the match at 2-2 with 62 seconds left in regulation.
“I guess you can say it was the shot of my life,” Gladden said.
“It’s really tough when your backs are to the wall like that,” he said, “and you are trying to defend for your life. We were a little loose on Gladden and he had a great strike.”
The Big Macs struck first on Tommy Samosky’s foot. In the 11th minute and in similar fashion as C-M’s other tallies, Gladden opted to pass a free kick at midfield to Aiden Walsh, who sent it into the box with a high lob. Samosky’s toe found the ball and deposited into the net.
For fifteen minutes, C-M’s advantage held. However, with 14:34 left in the first half, Danny Simboro earned the equalizer. He rolled a right-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner of the net past a diving Alex Hilbert to tie the match at 1-1.
Both teams had multiple chances to score before the half concluded.
Hilbert made a diving save in the 45th minute Walsh then hammered a strike inside the box towards Steven Vines but it hit off the right post.
Lebo appeared on its way to its first time since 2009 when Brady Napoleon scored on a rebound off a free kick from Giuseppe Croce with 17:29 left in the second half. The tally afforded the Blue Devils a 2-1 lead that held up until Gladden’s goal.
“We are a resilient team,” Gladden said. “We are going to fight. We knew after getting that tying goal that we were going to put another one away.”
Fonagy did just that. With 12:54 left in the first overtime frame, he headed the game winner home for C-M’s first district championship since 2015.
“It feels great,” Fonagy said. “There is nothing like it. I can’t compare this to anything else.”
For the Big Macs, it was the second straight come-from-behind triumph against a higher seeded club in the playoffs. In the semifinals, they upset No. 1 Plum, thanks to a pair of goals posted in the last six minutes of play.
Additionally, the Big Macs avenged their two regular-season defeats to Mt. Lebanon. In winning the section banner, the Blue Devils beat C-M, 3-1, on Sept. 17 and 4-3 on Oct. 8.
With the win, C-M improved to 15-3-1 overall. Lebo dropped to 15-5-1.
Both teams are entered in the PIAA tournament. State playoff action commences Nov. 6.
“It’s hard to find the right words after a hard-fought loss,” Perz said, “but we are nothing but proud of these kids and what they have done. They can hold their heads high.
“We have to find a way to put these behind us because we are going to be playing a good team on Tuesday,” he added. “We got to get ready to get back at it.”
Editor’s Note: Luke Campbell contributed to this story.