Indians win D6, move on
ALTOONA — Juniata boys soccer coach Jared Byler calls junior midfielder Stuart Dare a big piece of his offense.
“He’s kind of the engine that makes this team go,” Byler said. “He may not be the most vocal leader, but he is the emotional leader of the team. When Stu’s playing well, we’re playing well.”
Dare ended up being the difference as he netted both goals for the Indians in their 2-1 win over Huntingdon Saturday night at Mansion Park in the District 6 Class 2A boys soccer championship for the program’s first title.
“I’ve been here for three years, and I truly thought year two would be the year we’d make a district championship game and we did last year,” Byler said. “I truly thought year three would be the year we punched through the door and win a district title. They’ve put the work in since December to get us to where we are at now.”
Both teams played to a scoreless first half. In the 53rd minute Dare got the first of his two tallies on a crossover from George Hazard for a 1-0 lead which went through the goalkeeper.
“My heart goes out to that goalkeeper giving up that first goal,” Byler said. “That’s one that I’m sure he’s saved 100 times and unfortunately tonight, he didn’t. Sometimes you just got to get those breaks to go your way.”
That lead would last until the 67th minute and that’s when on a free kick Brady Hawkins found Dylan Stiffler as the Bearcats tied the match at 1.
“Hats off to Juniata, they have a great team,” Huntingdon coach Phil Hawkins said. “Where they sit geography wise, they got the best teams they can play all year round. We don’t see the competition that they see, which makes them and it filters into the club programs they have in the spring.”
That tie lasted just five minutes before Dare again — off a corner kick this time — from Tad Shellenberger put the game away for good in the 72nd minute.
“Last year was horrendous (losing in the district championship), and to come back and bounce back is amazing,” Dare said.
“Hats off to Phil Hawkins and his side over there,” Byler said. “He’s got a well coached team. Not our best game of soccer we’ve played all year, but we got the job done and that’s all that matters.”
The reward for the Indians will be defending PIAA Class 2A finalist Deer Lakes on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
Juniata 2, Huntingdon 1
J — Stuart Dare (George Hazard), 53:23; H — Dylan Stiffler (Brady Hawkins), 67:03; J — Stuart Dare (Tad Shellenberger), 72:23.
Shots: J 7-5. Corners: J 3-2. Saves: J-2 (Johnny Dessin), H-1