PHOTOS: Palmer Ridge Bears (3) The Classical Academy Titans (1)

Palmer Ridge Attacker, Ethan Ward (7), boots the ball past Defensive Titan, Henry Foisie (15), during the Bears 3-1 victory over The Classical Academy Thursday September 5, 2019. Photo by Jeff Kearney.

Feet, head and hands, Ethan Ward used it all to help the Palmer Ridge boys’ soccer team to its  first win over The Classical Academy on Thursday.

Under the lights of Don Breese Stadium, Ward raced to a bouncing ball and headed it into an open goal after Matt Sega pushed it past the Titan keeper, giving the Bears a 2-1 lead in the 70th minute.

“I just had to make sure I stayed composed,” Ward said of one of his most important goals in a Palmer Ridge uniform.

With two minutes to play, a Ward throw-in traveled roughly 30 yards in the air before being redirected into goal by Jack Sega for a 3-1 Palmer Ridge victory. The senior attacker beat the keeper earlier in the match with a laser throw, but the goal was disallowed because no other player had touched the ball before crossing the line.

“It’s a weapon,” Palmer Ridge coach Nick Odil said of Ward. “I tell the guys you want to be able to score pretty goals on the field, but you want to be able to pick up a goal when you need to pick up a goal.”

The Bears held off TCA for the final 120 seconds and broke into their post-game chant of unintelligible syllables strung together, a tradition started by the 2012 team that went to a state final.

“That team won a bunch of games, went to a final, so I think that’s a good tradition,” Odil said, admitting he wasn’t sure how it started. “We’ve done that this year more than we did last year.”

At 3-0, Palmer Ridge surpassed last year’s win total and matched the 2017 season.

“There’s just a different feeling in my group this year,” Odil said. “It’s basically the same team as last year.”

The same can not be said of Blake Galvin’s Titans, which lost Aaron Peck and Nathan Johns from a 2018 team that went 15-4. Still, had its chances, including what looked like a surefire goal before Palmer Ridge keeper Josh Strugalski slid across to deflect it out.

It was scoreless after 40 minutes before an own goal put the Bears ahead. TCA equalized midway through the second half off a Matthew Roehr shot from distance.

“We clearly made some mistakes,” Galvin said. “There were some things that we didn’t do well. There were moments where I felt like we had the run of play, we had the possession, we were pounding them.”

Ward, one of 11 Palmer Ridge seniors, broke the tie and made program history with a late goal and assist.

“A win like this makes you feel like you might belong a little bit, but you just gotta keep focused on that next game,” Odil said.

“I’m real proud of that senior group. That senior group is just a fantastic group of people.”