LEWISTOWN - It was a hot and muggy day when Mifflin County took on Cedar Cliff in boys Commonwealth Division soccer Tuesday.
The Colts didn't seem to notice.
Cedar Cliff was chomping at the bit from the start - the visitors received three offside calls within the first five minutes of the game - and it paid off when a 3-0 lead before the first 20 minutes of the game were complete was just a glimpse of the eventual 5-1 final in the Colts' favor.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Mifflin County’s Evan Zewe (8) moves the ball pass Cedar Cliff’s Dominick Haley (24) Tuesday in Lewistown. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
The offside calls were a product of Cedar Cliff's offensive approach - line up the forwards with Mifflin County's final defensive line to work for the breakaway - but they were quickly a thing of the past when Luke Dugan passed downfield to Joey Gallucci, who outsprinted the Huskies' defenders and put the Colts up 1-0 at 26:30.
It was Gallucci's second shot of the game, as earlier Mifflin County goalie Trevor Middaugh had run out and slid to block Gallucci's shot during a one-on-one breakaway. However, despite Middaugh's early heroics, Cedar Cliff was too much for the Mifflin County defense to handle as a shot from the right corner by Antonio Hebert put the Colts up 2-0, then a penalty kick by Owen Shenk after a Cedar Cliff player got knocked down in the box put the game at 3-0.
Mifflin County coach Bob Lepley was disappointed with the call for the penalty kick, but despite the 3-0 deficit his team responded quickly when Zachary Stauffer sent a nice pass down the right side to a wide-open Evan Zewe, who sent the shot hurtling past keeper Brendan Heasley for Mifflin County's only goal of the game.
"Stauffer, Zewe and (Jacob) Larson stepped up big for us. We possessed the ball better than we recently have, and we found opportunities just because we stayed organized and we possessed, which we've been hounding them about all season. So they came together nicely," Lepley said.
In the second half Mifflin County picked up its intensity on the offense a little bit as Zewe, Levi Sunderland and Weston Shugarts really started working the passing lanes, but they were never able to connect on another goal.
Lepley said he and his staff have been coaching the team to get more creative and add some new dimensions to its offense.
"Creativity in the final third is what we were talking about. The vertical balls, the runs, we just need to work on more creativity, different runs, running off the pass," he said.
"We need to continue to get more creative," he continued. "When we possess and we have more creative runs, opportunities open themselves up. And that showed a little bit here today."
Some of those opportunities created by the Huskies included a shot or two that went just wide by Larson, a breakaway by Zewe, and a loose ball that landed between Heasley and three Mifflin County forwards, one that Heasley cleared just in time - a shot which unfortunately deflected off the face of Mifflin County's Caleb Neff.
Overall, the second half was an impasse, as both teams struggled to get open shots. However, Cedar Cliff was able to connect on its last goal at 10:30 when Chase Foster scored on a direct-kick play. The Colts had previously scored on a shot by Dominick Haley near the end of the first half to make up their five goals.
The loss put Mifflin County at 0-5, but Lepley has seen small improvements from his team throughout the season.
"The scores are somewhat lopsided, but we have bright spots every game. It's just bringing everything that we've talked about in preseason - everything that we've tried to teach them - and bringing it all together. It's a process that's going to take time," he said.
The Huskies (0-5, 0-4) have a 6 p.m. matchup Thursday at Chambersburg.