OT goal lifts playoff-bound West Mifflin past TJ
West Mifflin midfielder Christopher Demeri doesn't know if his dramatic overtime goal against Thomas Jefferson on Monday night would have happened earlier in the season.
The Titans, forced to overcome a list of injuries and struggling to gain momentum, remained diligent at making a return to the WPIAL boys soccer playoffs for a second consecutive season after a 26-year absence.
They hope they're peaking at the right time.
Demeri's second goal of the game in the first minute of overtime carried West Mifflin past Thomas Jefferson, 2-1, in a Section 3-AA game between two WPIAL playoffs qualifiers.
“The opportunity to score like that only happens because you have the support of your teammates,” Demeri said. “I was able to make the right approach and everything came together.”
West Mifflin (8-7-1, 7-4-1), playing in its regular-season finale, avenged a 2-1 loss to Thomas Jefferson on Sept. 23 and handed the Jaguars their fifth consecutive defeat. TJ has nonsection regular-season games remaining Tuesday against Greensburg Salem and Wednesday against Greensburg Central Catholic, the day WPIAL playoffs pairings are set to be released.
Demeri's first goal with 8:51 left in the second half pulled West Mifflin even at 1-1.
“We came into the overtime fired up,” he said. “TJ is our big rival and we wanted to beat them after we came up short the first time.”
Even if the outcome had been different, West Mifflin was assured of returning to the playoffs, but coach Chad Perry said it's obvious the victory — the Titans' second in a row and third in the past four games — boosted his team's confidence.
“It's a great momentum-builder for us,” Perry said. “It has been a good turnaround for these guys to finish second in the section.”
South Park (16-1-0, 12-0-0), which handed West Mifflin a 4-0 loss Oct. 3, won the section title, finishing comfortably ahead of the second-place Titans (8-7-1, 7-4-1), who narrowly improved on their 2012 regular-season record of 7-7-2.
“Everyone is feeling pretty good about ourselves these days,” Perry said. “We're not too overconfident, but we're playing with confidence. Senior goalkeeper Kyle Buettner, who was one of the early-season casualties with a bruised left shoulder, seemed to be admiring Demeri for his tenacious play.
“We've actually had three games this year where we've come back to win from two goals down,” Buettner said. “We were only down a goal tonight, but we were down and came back for another win.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.