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Jake Ross scores twice in second half to help Salesinaum return to DIAA Division I soccer final: Photo gallery

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Salesianum's Jake Ross (23, middle) jumps to play a ball that never reaches him. Ross had both goals in the Sals' win. Dialog photo/Mike Lang

WILMINGTON — Salesianum spent much of its soccer game against Appoquinimink in a 1-0 hole, although they seemed to do everything but score a goal. That changed midway through the second half, when Jake Ross hit the back of the net twice to lift the Sals to a 2-1 win in a DIAA Division I semifinal Nov. 16 at Abessinio Stadium.

It was the second win over the Jaguars for Salesianum this season after Appo defeated the Sals for the state championship last year.

The Jaguars, the seventh seed in the eight-team tournament, came out on the offensive, taking the play to the third-seeded Sals for most of the first 18 minutes. That’s when a Jags throw-in was played in a crowd in front of the goal and got behind Sals keeper Zach Bittner. Dylan Everett was there and tapped in the easy goal, giving the sizeable number of Appo supporters something to cheer about.

Salesianum went on the offensive after falling behind. The Sals consistently played long through balls up the field, looking for a forward to break free from the Jaguars’ defense. The pressure resulted in three corner kicks in quick succession, but Sallies was unable to convert.

Appo goalkeeper Riley Buzby kept his team in the lead with a huge stop about 22 minutes in. The Sals’ Jake Ross caught up to one of those through balls and went in with a clear shot at the net. He sent one high to the left side, but Buzby leapt to his right and knocked it out of the way.

Reese Peddrick nearly tied the game minutes later, but his shot rolled inches wide of the left post. A shot by Paolo Magat in the 26th was deflected wide, giving the Sals another corner kick, which landed on top of the net.

The Sals trailed by a goal at the half despite getting eight corner kicks.

Salesianum went back to the corner kick to open the second half, earning another two in the first few minutes. On one of them, two Appo defensemen stopped Sallies attempts from reaching the net, and Buzby came up with a stop on another shot.

The strategy employed by the Sals paid off in the 65th minute. Another long pass upfield was headed toward the end line, but the Sals managed to keep it in. The ball got to Peddrick, and he lofted a pass toward the front of the net. Ross took a few steps and went up to play it off his head, and the ball sailed into the net to tie the score.

It took just five more minutes for Salesianum to gain the lead. Noah Holgado threaded a needle in sending a pass through the Jaguars’ defense to Ross, who approached the net from the keeper’s left. His shot was ticketed for the far side lower 90, sending Ross into a baseball slide in the corner near the student section.

Bittner was forced to come up big in the final minute of the night, when he withstood a Jags shot and the ensuing corner kick, which was headed away from the net by a Sals defender. The referee’s whistle blew before the Jags could send a follow-up shot toward the net.

The Sals improved to 13-4 and will play for their 20th state championship on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Dover High School. They will meet the top seed, Caesar Rodney, who defeated Sussex Central, 4-1, in their semifinal. The Riders and Sals did not meet this year, but they have played for the championship three times. The last was in 2019, when the Sals won, 7-0.

Appoquinimink, the defending state champs, finished the season 10-5-2.

All photos by Mike Lang.