Runner-up never felt so good.
The Perkiomen Valley and Pope John Paul II boys soccer teams can attest to that.
The Vikings needed to practically win out after a 1-2-1 start in the Pioneer Athletic Conference to make the league's Final Four playoffs. They did just that — going 8-0-1 down the stretch — but it wasn't without a heavy dose of drama. Their chances hung in the balance in Thursday night's regular season finale against Owen J. Roberts, only to be awarded a penalty kick with 81 seconds remaining in the second overtime. Senior forward Scott Neal hit the PK and sent Perkiomen Valley to its first league semifinal since 2010.
For the Golden Panthers, the waiting may have been the hardest part. PJP faced a pair of must-win games against Pottstown on the final days of the season to edge Phoenixville for the Frontier Division's No. 2 spot. After rallying from two goals down to sweat out a 3-2 win Wednesday, the Panthers were made to wait and wait thanks to a pair of rainouts before ultimately getting the game in Saturday morning at Cabrini College, which PJP won 2-0 to make the Final Four for the first time in the school's four-year history.
The PAC-10 Final Four is set for Monday evening at Spring-Ford with Perkiomen Valley meeting Frontier Division champion Pottsgrove at 5:30 p.m. while Pope John Paul II faces Liberty Division champion Spring-Ford at 7:30 p.m.
The final is set for Thursday back at Spring-Ford at 5:30 p.m., the first part of a soccer championship doubleheader that will be followed by the girls final.
Perkiomen Valley (9-2-2), which narrowly beat out defending champion Boyertown (9-3-1) for the final Liberty Division playoff spot, and Pottsgrove went to overtime in their regular season meeting on Sept. 25, Neal scoring the game-winner for the 2-1 victory after Matt Genuardi tied the game late in the first half for the Vikings. Seniors Neal and Genuardi have led the line for PV during their run, while getting crucial contributions from midfielders Alex Dove, Ryan Szabo and Danny Quirk, defenders Kyle Charlton and Trent Vernon and goalkeeper Corey Jackson, who was superb in the win over OJR.
The Falcons (8-5) will combat with seniors Travers Mutton and Ethan Abdalla, who scored the opener in the game against PV, sophomore Rammy Abbas and senior goalkeeper Teddy Calabretta.
Spring-Ford, which went 12-1 through its league schedule, bested Pope John Paul II 2-0 on Sept. 27 in their regular season meeting. Dan DiLiberto and Nick Bombard scored for the Rams. DiLiberto and Bombard, along with David Gulati, form the PAC-10's most dangerous attacking group, getting significant supply from midfielder Jerry Williams. Defenders Kole Lyons and Cole Pajovich also have been important in the Rams' success.
The Golden Panthers (5-7-1), whose 1-1 draw with Owen J. Roberts was the difference in qualifying for the Final Four by one point ahead of the Phantoms, are led by senior forward Ryan Ianovale, who scored three of the team's five goals in their final two games. PJP has also received important contributions from midfielders Brendan Csongradi, Drew Glass and goalkeeper Greg Everett.
Follow Austin Hertzog on Twitter @AustinHertzog