By BRAD SPAHR
WEST GOSHEN - Jake Miller got to sleep in on Saturday morning. He could not have dreamed this one up any better if he tried.
The senior midfielder netted two goals to help lead the Great Valley High School boys soccer team to the district championship on Saturday night, as the No. 1 seeded Patriots kept its perfect season intact, defeating Downingtown West by a score of 3-0 in the District 1 Class AAA title game at West Chester East's Harold I. Zimmerman Stadium.
Miller's first goal came less than four minutes into the all Ches-Mont League final, and held up to be the game-winner as undefeated Great Valley moved to 22-0 overall on the season.
"This is more than a dream right now,' said Miller. "This is one of the best feelings in the world.
"For us to even make it this far in the tournament is something special, and then to win it all is amazing. And on top that to still be undefeated this late in the season is incredible. We never would've expected all that at the beginning of the year. It's been a great ride so far, and we are hoping to keep it going and win a state championship now.'
The win marked Great Valley's first district title since 2005 (AA). Its previous Class AAA district crown came way back in 1993.
The Ches-Mont League champion Patriots also earned District 1's top-seed in the upcoming PIAA Class AAA playoffs. They'll play District 3's third-place squad, Central York, in the first round of states on Tuesday at a neutral site and time to be announced.
"To win a league championship and a district championship without conceding a single game — it's been a dream season,' said Great Valley coach Dave Moffett. "But hopefully we are no where close to being done.
"This team feels they are good enough to contend for a state title. We're looking forward to the challenges that lies ahead of us.'
Downingtown West, meanwhile, will also be in the hunt for state gold, as they still have plenty to play for themselves despite the disappointing loss on Saturday. The Whippets will open the PIAA playoffs on Tuesday with a first round game against District 2 champion Abington Heights at a neutral site and time to be announced.
Downingtown West was the No. 18 seed in the district tournament, and put together a remarkable run to get to the finals.
They fell into a difficult 2-0 hole with 20:07 left in the first half when Great Valley's Luis Benitez Palermo scored to give his team complete control of the district title match.
"Downingtown West did a great job. They never quit,' said Moffett.
Indeed the Whippets really fought hard in the second half, and had a number of quality scoring chances to cut the deficit to one goal, but were unable to get one past Great Valley goalie Jon Fuydal, who was brilliant in making 10 saves.
The Patriots made it 3-0 with 8:21 to play on Miller's second goal of the contest.
"Congrats to Great Valley,' said Downingtown West coach John Hatt. "They certainly deserved to win tonight.
"But our guys fought until the end, and I'm proud of them for that. That's what they've done all season. We just came up short here tonight.'
The District 1 Class AAA boys soccer playoffs were like a March Madness office pool gone wrong this fall. Three of the four semifinalists were seeded 14th or higher. But amidst all those post-season upsets, Great Valley stood tall, as the No. 1 seeds.
"We had a target on our backs all the way through,' said Miller. "We had to survive in our first game, winning in penalty kicks. But we kept advancing, and tonight we felt we had to win this.
"We came out and really matched [Downingtown West's] intensity. We have a great team this year. We're all like a family.'
Last year, Great Valley had lost in the opening round of the district playoffs. That bad taste lingered into this season.
"That experience was a driving force to help get us here,' said Moffett. "It was a real motivating factor for us.'
In front of a huge crowd at Zimmerman Stadium, including a fantastic and passionate student section, Great Valley celebrated with the first place medals around their necks and lifted the District 1 championship trophy high into the cold fall night.
Said Miller, "I'm glad I didn't sleep in too late.'
Great Valley 3, Downingtown West 0
Downingtown West 0 0 — 0
Great Valley 2 1 — 3
Great Valley goals: Miller 2, Benitez Palermo.
Goalie saves: Brain (DW) 7; Fuydal (GV) 10.