Tigers beat the heat

COCOLAMUS – Juniata, seemingly having shaken off its early season blues, needed a win Wednesday against rival East Juniata to remain a contender in the Tri-Valley League boys soccer race.

The Tigers, in a better position to keep its crown thanks to a Juniata win earlier in the week, just needed to have more goals.

Or, in simpler terms, this was a typical Juniata-East Juniata dog fight. And these dogs were ready for junk yard duty.

The exciting part of the game was 53 minutes of constant action after the final goal was scored. The win was East Juniata’s, 2-1, on an unassisted tally in the first period by Trevor Goodling.

Neither team waited long to look at the goal – the Tigers pushed to the end line and drew a corner kick just 40 seconds into the contest. Juniata’s first challenge was two and a half minutes in, and the home team had to be thankful it wasn’t a goal – Nick Gilbert went one-on-one with goalie Clay Sheaffer; East Juniata’s saving grace was its speed, which allowed the defense to sweep away the ball.

“I think that was part of it. And I think we defended well,” East Juniata coach Don Troutman said.

But the Indians’ pursuit showed that there wasn’t going to be a letdown after Juniata’s upset over Greenwood that created a huge opportunity for the Indians to get in the mix.

“We stressed that really hard, how were we going to react after that,” Juniata coach Clint Brackbill said. “I talked about that emotional drop. I thought we played them well.”

The ability of the Tigers to beat Juniata on the ground played a huge role in who was controlling the game at any particular time. On the ground – and spread over the field – it was hard for the Indians to keep pace. When it got packed up – or the ball was in the air – East Juniata was behind the eight ball.

The opportunity meter leaned toward East Juniata in the first half, and so did the score. The Tigers got on the board first, eight minutes in, when Dalton Shipp took a cross from Gabe Coder and put it past Juniata keeper Matt Coldren.

Juniata had the next good opportunity on a wide shot then a corner, but came up empty. Then, in a two-minute span across the middle of the half, the Tigers had Coldren out of position but couldn’t get a call when the Indians played hard in the box, then Shipp was dry on another cross, this time from Goodling.

That was a play that the Tigers used heavily in the second, often with the same slight miss on the goal.

“They maybe saw it was coming, but it was working,” Troutman said. “They were giving us the wings and it was there. A few times we just needed to be a bit more patient and we could have been more dangerous.”

Then, with 17 left to play, Gilbert evened the score when Chantz Imes sent a corner kick to the far post and Gilbert knocked it in.

“We took advantage of some opportunities we had. Maybe a slip here and there, a bouncing ball, and they took advantage,” Brackbill said.

That lead didn’t hold up – four minutes later, Goodling walked the ball through the Juniata defense and pounded it into the back of the twine. Little did anyone know that would be the last time the scoreboard operator had to change a number.

The goalies did the heavy lifting in the second half, with Sheaffer appearing to do more of the work – Juniata’s shots, while equally unsuccessful, were on target more often.

“Our passing wasn’t quite as crisp and we didn’t play feet as well the second half,” Troutman said. “But we still had some opportunities.”

Coldren was stretched by the Tiger efforts, and kept it a one-goal game.

“Matt’s been playing great for us all year,” Brackbill said. “He stepped up the beginning of the year and picked us up when we were having some issues finishing.”

East Juniata (7-2-1, 6-0-1) travels to Greenwood Saturday for a crucial TVL showdown. Juniata heads to Halifax the same day.