Throughout the years of the Pioneer Athletic Conference boys soccer championship game, the scales have often tipped in favor of the team with the senior-dominated lineup. The Spring-Ford and Perkiomen Valley boys soccer teams could both be described that way, though.
Something else will have to settle the score when the neighboring rivals face off in the PAC-10 boys title game Thursday night at 5:30 p.m. at Spring-Ford's Coach McNelly Stadium.
Spring-Ford is back in the final for a second straight season after losing 2-1 in overtime to Boyertown in last year's championship. It is Perk Valley's first trip to the final since 2010 when it met Spring-Ford. The Rams won their lone PAC-10 title that season with a 3-1 victory over the Vikings.
There is most certainly a score to settle considering the Rams and Vikings split their regular season meetings, 1-0 in favor of Spring-Ford on Sept. 14 while their second meeting went in favor of the surging Vikings, 3-0, on Sept. 30.
The surprising three-goal win for Perkiomen Valley was Spring-Ford's only PAC-10 defeat this season and was one of only two losses overall for the Liberty Division champion Rams (15-2-1). Meanwhile, it was a part of the Vikings' nine-game PAC-10 unbeaten streak which boosted them from a 1-2-1 start all the way into the Final Four.
In Monday's semifinals, PV got a late goal to oust Frontier Division champion Pottsgrove 1-0 while Spring-Ford rolled past Pope John Paul II, 6-0.
Aside from the senior similarities — Spring-Ford starts eight, PV starts six — there are plenty of likenesses in lineups, too.
Both teams feature top-scoring traditional center forwards in Spring-Ford junior Dan DiLiberto (13 goals) and PV senior Scott Neal (13 goals, six assists); hard-charging attacking midfielders in Spring-Ford's David Gulati (six goals, 12 assists) and Nick Bombard (five goals) and Perk Valley's Matt Genuardi (10 goals, four assists); tempo-setting midfielders Jerry Williams (seven goals) for Spring-Ford and Alex Dove for PV; and able shot-stopping goalkeepers in Spring-Ford's Pat Swartz and PV's Corey Jackson.
On defense, the Rams play a diamond in the back with Cole Pajovich at sweeper and Kole Lyons at stopper. Lyons is given the freedom to involve himself in the attack more than a typical defender, something that was a game-changing move in the PAC-10 semifinal win, Lyons (six goals) scoring on a low drive from 30 yards out. The Vikings play more of a flat four on defense with senior Kyle Charlton and junior Trent Vernon paired in the middle.
When it comes to playing style, the Vikings and Rams go about their business in different ways. The speed of Neal and Genuardi make PV most threatening on the counterattack while Spring-Ford is a much more possession-oriented team largely due to Williams, Lyons and Brian Gryscavage in the midfield. At the same time, the Rams incorporate fast build-up play because of the pace and intensity of Gulati and Bombard specifically.Follow Austin Hertzog on Twitter @AustinHertzog