CLARKS SUMMIT — Third-seeded Abington Heights scored three goals in the first 15 minutes and added three more to defeat sixth-seeded Hazleton Area, 6-0, in a District 2 Class 3A boys soccer quarterfinal match on Tuesday afternoon at Clarks Summit Elementary.
Jonathan Rickwood, who finished with a hat trick, scored the first goal of the game off an assist from Evan Phillips in the seventh minute.
“It’s always good to get the first goal,” Rickwood said. “I think it’s key to get it early on because it leads to more opportunities throughout the game.”
The Comets added their second goal just over a minute later when Brad Sopinski found the back of the net off an assist from Rickwood.
“We tried our hardest to keep the ball on their half of the field,” Rickwood said. “It adds a moral boost to the team and was a huge factor in the win.”
Tight defense pressure helped Abington Heights score its third goal of the game. After the Comets forced a turnover, Colin Klingman played a ball into the middle of the box and Sopinski tapped it in for his second goal in the 15th minute.
“After the first goal, it gave me so much confidence to get another one,” Sopinski said. “We play well together as a team and we have a lot of heart.”
Hazleton Area registered its first quality scoring chance in the 22nd minute, but Wiliam Barrientos’ free kick attempt sailed over the crossbar.
Klingman nearly gave the Comets a four goal lead in the 29 minute but his shot from the corner of the box grazed the post.
Just under two minutes later, Abington Heights’ Antonio Maletta forced a turnover a scored to give the Comets a 4-0 lead.
The Comets duo of Phillips and Rickwood connected for a goal again in the 47th minute. After a long run down the sideline, Phillips cut toward the middle of the goal and centered a pass that Rickwood knocked into the net.
Hazleton Area (5-9-1) nearly scored its first goal in the 50th minute. Jake Sachse headed a pass from Jerry Gasser on net, but Comets goalkeeper Jackson Danzig made the save.
“The entire year, we’ve come out notoriously slow and today was no different,” Hazleton Area head coach Christian Samoyedny said. “We tend to get it together a little bit toward the end of the first half or start of the second half. It’s just been consistently too little, too late.”
Abington Heights (11-3) had four quality scoring chances in the next seven minutes, but Cougars goalkeeper Brian Riedel made some big stops, including a point-blank shot from Sopinski.
The Comets outshot Hazleton Area, 29-4, for the game.
“The wins we’ve had this year, he’s kept us in the games,” Samoyedny said. “He’s been a saving grace for us and he’ll be back next year.”
Rickwood scored his final goal of the game in the 60th minute by sliding the ball past Riedel after a short run up the field.
Abington Heights will play the winner of the Scranton/Wyoming Valley West game in the semifinals on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.