Peters Township's Pruitt claims player of the year honor
For the better part of three years, Shane Pruitt and the rest of his Peters Township teammates made a habit of being second best.
In 2005, the Indians finished second to Plum in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game. Then, in 2006, and again this year, they walked off the field at Elizabeth Forward High School with silver medals draped around their necks after losing one-goal games to Bethel Park.
The second-place finishes clearly rankled Pruitt and the team's other four captains. That was why, after Peters Township defeated Pine-Richland in the PIAA Class AAA semifinals last month, the five seniors stated emphatically that they would gladly trade all three of their silver medals for one gold. And the only one left that Pruitt could win before he took his soccer career to Lafayette University was the state championship.
And Pruitt, the Tribune-Review's 2007 boys soccer player of the year, made it happen.
He scored the game-winning goal 6:18 into overtime to give Peters Township a 2-1 victory over Downingtown West for its first PIAA Class AAA title since 1989.
"I have never seen a player that was able to will himself and his team to a win," Peters Township coach Bobby Dyer said. "Don't get me wrong, he didn't do it all by himself and he'll be the first to tell you that, but he was the dominant player in that game.
"I think it's his work ethic and his determination that make him special. Obviously, he has God-given talent, but in the offseason, Shane really worked hard on his fitness and that really elevated his game to a level he wasn't at before."
Over the past two years, Pruitt has been the most dominant force in WPIAL soccer. He was named an all-WPIAL and all-state selection both years and separated himself from the pack with his impressive play around the net, coupled with his extraordinary playmaking ability.
"I've been around and I've been around guys who have been around other players that have been great but not able to bring up the others around him," Dyer said. "I think he's learned that through the years, how to make the team better in his own way and how to lead. I think he really learned that this year."
One of things that makes him so dominant is his ability to ratchet his game to a higher level and, in concert, take his teammates along for the ride. Though he was the one who scored the championship-winning goal on an outstanding play in overtime, the rest of the Indians were able to play better than they had throughout the game and bring home a victory against a District 1 team.
No WPIAL team had even appeared in the PIAA Class AAA championship game since 2004.
Still, that's no indication of how he will do at the Division I level.
"He has to work on moving the ball faster and he has tremendous skill and can do that," Dyer said. "In high school he had the size and strength to go through tackles and this leap from high school to college is tremendous, but he has the skill to play at the next level and he'll learn it really quick."