Juniata surprises TVL’s best

MIFFLINTOWN – Juniata used a 69th-minute goal from Brand Brackbill to defeat East Juniata 2-1 in a Tri-Valley League boys soccer game Tuesday.

With the win, Juniata split the season with its intra-county rival. The Indians also handed East Juniata its first conference loss of the season, which at least briefly threatened East Juniata’s Tri-Valley League regular-season championship dreams.

“When you get into tight games, when you get into the playoffs, you have to finish the opportunities you have,” Juniata coach Clint Brackbill said. “We did that today.”

Both teams are likely headed toward the postseason, although Juniata’s entry is less automatic – District 6 is an open tournament, and the school indicated last week that a decision would be made closer to the cutoff point, which is this week. Juniata clinched a winning record with this victory.

Juniata didn’t have many scoring opportunities on the day, mustering only four shots on goal, but the Indians converted on two of them, with Brand Brackbill’s late goal being the difference.

“They decided to play today,” Clint Brackbill said. “We definitely took advantages of our opportunities today. We’ve had some games when we haven’t done that.”

The first of Juniata’s scoring chances came in the 15th minute on a penalty kick.

Taylor Foster kicked the ball to Jose Lopez, who headed the ball backward to Brennan Paden, who had an open look, but blasted a shot way over the head of East Juniata goalkeeper Clay Sheaffer.

Juniata had another chance when Chantz Imes fired toward the East Juniata goal, but Sheaffer was able to get a hand on it, deflecting it over the net.

After several chances of its own, East Juniata capitalized when Jake Sankey found Trevor Goodling for a goal and a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute of play.

Juniata answered in the 39th minute when a Nick Gilbert throw-in found Ricky Heck, who beat Sheaffer for the equalizer.

“The only time they got dangerous was on a penalty kick or a corner kick,” East Juniata coach Don Troutman said.

Matt Coldren’s diving save on Sankey’s shot with 15 minutes left in the game was huge for the Indians, keeping the game tied at one apiece.

“Matt’s played great back there this year,” Brackbill said. “He’s stepped it up. He’s the leader in the back.”

“He did make a couple nice saves for sure,” Troutman added. “He did a nice job. He kept them in the game early on.”

Juniata also stopped more potential trouble when East Juniata bounced a shot over Coldren’s head, but Foster was there to dispose of it before it found the far side of the net.

Juniata scored the deciding goal with 11:05 to play when a Jose Lopez pass found Brand Brackbill, who fired past Sheaffer for the winning goal.

The win for Juniata was only its second over the course of Troutman’s tenure at East Juniata.

“We didn’t play with our level of intensity that we’re capable of playing with,” Troutman said. “We dominated the ball, except for a couple times they got in our end.”

Both teams have one game standing between them and district play.

“We have to prepare ourselves better for district play,” Troutman said. “We’re going to go in there with a target on our back as well. Everybody kind of brings their best against you.”

Juniata improves to 9-6-1 on the season and will host Greenwood Thursday; with a winning record, it’s likely the Indians, who are sixth in the unofficial District 6 Class AA field, will be playing after that.

East Juniata will host Line Mountain on Thursday night; barring an unlikely upset by the winless Eagles, East Juniata will clinch its fifth straight TVL title with a win that night. Greenwood, which was the last team in position to challenge the Tigers, saw its opportunity to do so go south with a loss Tuesday to Lancaster Country Day.