BOYS SOCCER: Improved Dragons can’t overcome Harbor Creek in D10 title game

EDINBORO – Warren boys soccer coach Tom Harrington couldn’t be happier with his Dragons’ post-season performance.

Well, maybe if they had won Saturday’s District 10 Class AA championship.

But, despite a 4-0 loss to undefeated Harbor Creek in the D10 final at General McLane High School, Warren has qualified – for the second time in four years under Harrington – for the PIAA championships beginning Tuesday.

The top two teams out of District 10 qualify for the PIAA Class AA tournament. Warren, as the runner-up, will play at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Moon Area High School to play WPIAL champion West Allegheny. Harbor Creek is 20-0 and wins its second straight D10 title. The Huskies will play on Tuesday in Erie against the third seed from District 7, South Park.

“I’m very happy with the way they’re playing. And we’re not done yet,” said Harrington about Warren, which won its only D10 title on 2010 – Harrington’s first year as head coach.

This year, Warren lost its first seven games with a difficult opening schedule, a young team and a few lineup changes. The Dragons finished 5-2-1 in Region 4 as the top Class AA seed to qualify for the playoffs, but finished the regular season at 5-10-1 overall.

Warren opened the playoffs with four goals from junior Quinn Boger in a 3-0 win over Girard and 2-1 win over Region 2 champion Wilmington, respectively.

That led the Dragons to Harbor Creek. The Huskies were a part of Warren’s season-opening seven-game losing streak, beating Warren 7-0 then.

The D10 championship was played in a downpour on General McLane’s Linden Field turf. It also included an early injury to Tristan Boger, who did not return, and later to goalie Clark Eason.

Eason was bombarded with raindrops and shots on goal by Harbor Creek, which led 2-0 at the half. The workhorse goalie left late in the second half after having gutting out a rib injury.

It could have been worse, and it could have been better, for Warren.

“We got hit with a couple of bad bounces; that’s sports,” said Harrington.

Eric Campbell scored his first of three goals for Harbor Creek about 11 minutes into the match — from nearly 20 yards out, a line drive shot to Eason’s right. Warren’s defense and Eason appeared to anticipate a handball call and stopped play for a moment, and that’s when Campbell converted.

With 10 minutes left in the half, and Warren conceivably heading into halftime down just one goal, the wet conditions became obvious. Harbor Creek had been on the attack, and Campbell missed wide right on a breakaway with 11:54 left in the half. The, on a long kick through the raindrops to Eason, the ball slipped down the front of his jersey and Brandon Slomski cleaned it up nicely for a 2-0 lead.

Warren had a good opportunity before the half but couldn’t convert off a throw-in in front of the Huskies’ goal. Eason was diving all over the place, with a dive to his right on a shot with just 28 seconds left in the half. The shot was wide.

Eason had two saves less than a minute into the second half, and two diving saves just over four minutes later.

But Eason couldn’t stop Campbell’s shot just over 10 minutes into the second half, when his jumping save slipped through his hands and he couldn’t lunge for the ball fast enough to stop the goal.

Campbell completed is hat trick when he split two defenders and kicked it past Eason’s diving effort.

Harbor Creek outscored Slippery Rock 7-1 in the semifinals, and defeated Warren to win its third district title since 2008.

Leading-scorer Boger (19 goals) was double-teamed, but Warren (7-11-1) did not give up; Boger had a header from Simon Smith that went just wide of the goal with 10:30 remaining. Boger had another shot saved at 3:05 left.

Ryan Gustafson also gave his team a good scoring opportunity in the second half.

“The team is coming together,” said Harrington. “Again, at the very beginning of the season we just didn’t have varsity starting experience. When you start looking at it as what we can do rather than what I can do, it makes all the difference in the world.

“The effort was good,” said Harrington. “I have to give attention to Max Gross, who really played a heck of a game at center back. All the guys worked.”

Overall, Harbor Creek outshot Warren, 35-10, with Eason having 19 saves. His season high was 24 in a overtime match with McDowell. He already has the single-season record for saves at Warren.

The Dragons will need him against West Allegheny (19-3-1) on Tuesday.

“We’re going to have our hands full,” said Harrington, trying to pump Warren up as the “Cinderella” team left in the post-season. “But if we can come in and play the way we’re capable of playing, we have a good chance.”