At best, the Roadrunner men's soccer team needed a miracle to pull out a win over visiting Bucks County Community College Tuesday afternoon with seconds remaining in their tense Region XIX battle.
The likely scenario? That appeared to be overtime against a talented opponent whom they have had difficult experiences against in previous years.
Well, the Runners indeed pulled off the miracle!
Score one for "Uncle Joe" Niemiec, who punched in his second game-winning goal of the season in a wild scene in front of the Bucks CCC net with just 11 seconds remaining to pull off a dramatic 2-1 victory.
With the score knotted at 1-1 in a game that certainly appeared headed for OT, the Roadrunners (6-4-1 overall) stole the improbable win over the Centurions, who entered the day with a 9-1 overall record.
With 15 seconds remaining, sophomore midfielder Justin Phy delivered a perfect ball from the right corner to the front of the crowded Bucks CCC net. In a four-second span, the ball bounced off sophomore midfielder Francesco Fazzolari and directly to Niemiec, who dropped in the winning score.
The celebration was officially on for the Runners, who hadn't scored a goal in the previous three games prior to Tuesday's heart-thumping triumph. And the hero was Niemiec, a 27-year old who graduated Philaelphia's Roman Catholic High School in 2010.
"My teammates make fun of my age all the time -- but I'm glad my old age hasn't stopped me from contributing," said a smiling Niemiec afterwards. "Hopefully this win will turn our season around in a positive direction."
Earlier, Phy gave the Runners a 1-0 lead when he drilled in his fifth goal of the season, converting a penalty kick in the first half.
The Centurions tied it at 1-1 on an unassisted goal by Conor Brady with three minutes remaining in the half. But RCSJ goalkeeper Connor Rink registered several key saves to lead a strong defensive effort and keep the Runners in the hunt.
That set the stage for a defensive struggle in the second half leading up to the desperation game-winning shot in the final 11 seconds of play.
"I'm proud of everyone for hanging in there and setting up that final play the way they did," said head coach George Hobbins. "Justin (Phy) delivered the ball in front of the net where he had to, Frankie (Fazzollari) got a touch on it, and Joe (Niemiec) finished it. It was amazing."
The Runners, who snapped a three-game losing streak, hope to keep the momentum going when they host Bergen Community College on Saturday in a 2:30 pm start.
GAME DAY INFORMATION
RCSJ-Gloucester vs. Bucks County Community College
October 1, 2019
George Hobbins, RCSJ Gloucester
Justin Burroughs, Bucks CCC
RCSJ Gloucester (5-4-1, 3-3-1)
Bucks CCC (9-1, 9-1)
Watch Live at RCRoadrunners.com