Upper St. Clair wins title

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HERSHEY, Pa. -- Upper St. Clair has a roster full of likely heroes that could have provided the pivotal play for a PIAA soccer championship this weekend.

Doug Hapeman didn't think he'd be the guy. But Hapeman, a rangy sophomore still sporting braces, found himself center stage in the Panthers' 1-0 victory Saturday night against West Lawn Wilson for the PIAA Class AAA boys soccer championship.

Hapeman eyed up a high feed from Wes Burdette early in the game and fired a header past West Lawn goalie Kyle Lorenz at the 19:11 mark for the lone score of the game.

But that wasn't all Hapeman did. Upper St. Clair coach Uwe Schneider, who saw a PIAA title slip away a year ago in a 1-0 loss to Conestoga, moved Hapeman to a position he hadn't played all year -- center-back -- to mark West Lawn star Adam Bainbridge, and Hapeman's play enabled Upper St. Clair (22-2-1) to hand West Lawn (25-3-1) its third 1-0 loss of the season.

"We put Hapeman on [Bainbridge] because we needed someone with some height to stay with him, and we moved Wes to right back for the first time this year," Schneider said. "We had three or four different setups on defense, but what we put out there worked."

It worked so well that it essentially set up Hapeman's goal.

"I was marking [Bainbridge] and when he dropped back into the box to help on defense, I followed him," Hapeman said. "That's when Wes sent in a nice ball that I was able to get to."

Asked if he could imagine being the guy at the center of attention, Hapeman smiled and said, "No, not at all. I can't imagine being the guy."

But he was. Well, not the only guy.

As much as Upper St. Clair's defense stifled West Lawn's aggressive offense, it was inevitable the Bulldogs would get shots at the net. They did, but Panthers keeper Joe Conlon kept getting in the way.

Conlon had four saves in the waning minutes, none bigger than the stop he made on Rocky Elgogari's header with 50 seconds left, the last of a wave of West Lawn attacks in the final four minutes.

"As soon as I locked up that shot, I knew we won," Conlon said. "It was a good shot, a hard shot, but I was in the right place at the right time."

Schneider said that's nothing new.

"My goalkeeper was fantastic," Schneider said. "He's the most underrated goalkeeper in the state."

The victory gave Upper St. Clair its third boys state soccer championship and its first since winning back-to-back Class AAA titles in 2003 and '04.

The Panthers' win was also the fifth 1-0 game in the six-game championship series in Hershey this weekend.

West Lawn was seeking its first boys PIAA soccer championship since winning the 1992 Class AAA title.

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