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Apr. 9—Reading High's boys soccer players still gathered after their season was taken away. Sometimes 20 or 30 of them showed up for pickup games.
There were no fans. No scoreboard. No stakes other than personal pride. There was only a chance to play.
The Red Knights were given back their uniforms for an abbreviated spring season. They've made it count.
Jose Serrano scored 18 seconds into overtime and Reading defeated Penn Wood 3-2 in the United X League semifinals at Hampden Park Thursday night.
"This is what we love to do," captain Nelson Rivera said. "It keeps us from the streets, you know? I'm happy for the boys. This is what they wanted."
Reading will take on Norristown for the championship at home Saturday. It's the second half of a doubleheader that starts with the girls final at 10 a.m.
When the Red Knights were at their peak during the 2014 district championship run, they called their attacking style Knightnado. The term still finds its way onto T-shirts.
Serrano putting home the winning goal was a Knightnado moment.
"Nelson gives me a good pass," Serrano said. "I have to put it in. Golden goal and look at us. We're going to the final."
Serrano's finish was the exclamation point after a wild final 20 minutes that saw Reading overcome two penalty kicks.
Rivera scored first for the Red Knights, a dazzling 30-foot free kick that dinged off the post and bounced into the net. That made it 1-1 with just under 11 minutes left.
Xavier Gonzalez scored two minutes later to provide Reading with a short-lived 2-1 lead that was erased by the second PK.
"We fought our way back," coach Mike Cahn said. "If you think about it we had three nice goals in the run of play and they had two penalty kicks. I thought we outplayed them. I thought we deserved to win."
Adversity didn't slow down Reading. After waiting seven months for a chance, how could it?
"You've just gotta keep your head up and keep that energy," Rivera said. "That's all it took. Energy."
Rivera pointed toward his warmup shirt, which was sponsored by Mike Kuhn Funeral Home. The senior wanted to thank Kuhn, who supported the program through what has been a challenging year.
Back in the fall when the rest of Berks was playing soccer, Rivera was merely a spectator. It was a difficult time.
"I have friends from all over the county," he said. "I'd just go watch the games. I'd think, 'That could have been us on that field.'"
On Thursday night, the field belonged to the Red Knights.
It was golden.