When the season began, Ryan Nork said if his Father Judge soccer team won the Catholic League boys' title, he would make sure to take the game ball home with him.
But with less than two minutes remaining in the league final and the entire Crusaders bench lined up along the sideline in anticipation of the ending whistle Tuesday night, Nork temporarily forgot about his promise.
The senior midfielder was too happy to remember, he said. Luckily for Nork, his teammates reminded him.
After the whistle sounded at Archbishop Ryan, with Judge a 3-1 victor over Lansdale Catholic, Nork went around asking for the ball.
Once the La Salle recruit got it in his hands, he didn't let go. It stayed at his hip through many pictures, hugs, and celebrations.
There was a good reason Nork was holding on so tight to the ball. Tuesday marked the third straight appearance in the league final for Judge (19-1), and Nork remembered the heartbreak of losing back-to-back titles.
It was a feeling echoed by some of his fellow seniors.
"It's incredible," midfielder Joey Hansen said. "We got beat like this last year, so we knew we had to come out hard. We really wanted to score the first goal, and after that, that just motivated us to go through the rest of the game."
"After losing the past two years," defender Joey Malvestuto added, "this is the greatest feeling in the world."
Energized from the start, Judge moved the ball quickly and well, dominating possession and keeping almost all play in its offensive half.
Malvestuto scored with 11 minutes remaining and Eric Trush added another in the final minute of the first half.
The game was never out of Judge's control, as the Crusaders pressed and played aggressively throughout the contest.
Father Judge will play for the District 12 Class AAA championship on Friday, at Northeast, against Central, at 7 p.m. Lansdale Catholic (12-6-1) will compete in the District 12 Class AA title game.
A win Friday would mean that Nork and the rest of the senior class will play in the state tournament for the first time. That would provide the possibility of Nork taking home another soccer ball.
Lansdale Catholic 0 1 – 1
Father Judge 2 1 – 3
Goals: LC-Christian Toeller; FJ-Joey Malvestuto, Eric Trush, Abrahem Krama.
Saves: LC-Jack Kane 3; FJ-Daniel Sulpizio 1.