Wildcats turn on second-half charm for win

MIFFLINTOWN – With upsets over Greenwood and East Juniata under its belt already, the Juniata boys soccer team appeared poised Thursday to take another upset win over the Wildcats with a 1-0 lead at the half during the final regular-season game for both teams.

However, it only took 10 minutes into the second half to see this would not be the case.

With a feed from Lucas Grimm seven minutes into the half, Seth Ferguson tied the game at 1-1 to give the Wildcats some momentum. Three minutes later, Hunter Miller shot a rocket up the middle for the 2-1 lead, and a half played predominantly in front of Juniata’s goal secured the win.

“I thought we played well in the first half, we just didn’t get the goal. We may have had as good opportunities in the first half as we did in the second half, we just didn’t put a finish on anything,” Greenwood coach Tom Magill said.

But it was the shots in the second half that mattered.

Greenwood notched eight shots in the first half and nine in the second, and the defense deflated Juniata’s shot opportunities from five to three between the two halves, making both the second half and the game the Wildcats’.

“I just didn’t think we brought the effort, especially in the second half. They came out fired up; we didn’t match their intensity,” Juniata coach Clint Brackbill said – although his team did manage to score the first goal of the contest.

At 14:50 in the first, Brand Brackbill got the ball rolling for Juniata when he dribbled in front of the net to maneuver for an opening, then sent a shot toward the goal that deflected off a Greenwood defender before slipping past Wildcat goalkeeper Noah Schaeffer.

Juniata was matching Greenwood pace-for-pace at that point, and Juniata goalie Matthew Coldren was keeping the Indians in the game with beautiful saves throughout the contest, but in the last five minutes of the half Greenwood took over the momentum and never gave it back.

“I thought we had really, really good shot opportunities and probably could have scored more than two, but again, we didn’t quite get the finishing touch,” said Magill, who was otherwise pleased with his team’s second-half performance.

From Juniata’s end, Clint Brackbill tried to give the team a second-half spark by subbing in for almost the entire first string, but the move came with mixed results.

“We were able to give a push there in the end, so it worked a little bit, but we couldn’t pull it out,” he said, explaining that the second string was able to give the starters a breather before their last push in the final minutes of the game.

In that final push, Juniata got three direct kicks within the last three minutes of the game – one of which resulted in a corner kick when the Indian’s Nick Gilbert delivered a shot that Schaeffer was just able to tip over the crossbar to maintain the lead – but the Indians weren’t able to hit the target in any of those chances.

Juniata finished the season at 9-7-1, 8-6 in the TVL, and awaits its seeding for the District 6 Class AA tournament. Brackbill hopes to see a certain intensity from the team in the postseason.

“We need to be there emotionally, ready to be fired up and ready to go,” he said. “We need to be relentless.”

Greenwood (13-3-2, 10-2-2) will also enter the playoffs – in the Wildcats’ case through the District 3 Class A tournament – in a quarterfinal game Oct. 26 against the winner of Lititz Christian and Upper Dauphin.

Magill said the team is healthy, and he will be interested to see the outcome.

“We’re capable of being really dangerous, but we’re also capable of just falling on our face, because sometimes we just lack that finish that we need in order to obviously be really, really effective. So we’ll see what happens,” he said.