First-half goals power Indians past Tigers
Dare converts two PKs in Juniata victory
MIFFLINTOWN — East Juniata was the aggressor on Tuesday afternoon but it was the Juniata offense that took advantage of the opportunities that it got, as a poor defensive showing in the first half by East Juniata propelled the Indians to a 3-2 victory in a boys soccer Tri-Valley League contest.
Juniata’s Stuart Dare converted two penalty kicks in the opening half and assisted on a third goal by Ben Wagner, as the Indians (1-0, 1-0 TVL) took the lead 41 seconds into the game and never trailed.
“It was very exciting to start out with a win,” Dare said. “It was a great start, but I think we definitely have some things that we need to work on. I think that this will probably be one of the worst games that we play this year. I look for our team to get better.”
Despite the early goals, East Juniata controlled most of the game and was much better in the midfield.
“Compliments to Coach Fronk, the better team did not win tonight’s game,” Juniata coach Jared Byler said. “They certainly played better than what we did and were more organized. We just had some breaks go our way and that’s pretty much the gist of this game. We got some breaks and we were able to hold on. I said it at the beginning of the year that East Juniata is the team to win the league this year and they showed it. The scoreboard may not show it, but EJ is a quality team and they were much better than we were tonight.”
The Tigers (0-1, 0-1 TVL) fouled Juniata’s Bryce Rush on a breakaway seconds into the game and Dare converted the penalty kick to give Juniata the early advantage. Dare noted a difference from a season ago as the Indians were able to get on the board quickly.
“From last year to this year, one thing that is different is that we opened our eyes and are actually getting our shots early instead of one, two or three cuts before a shot,” he said.”
Ben Wagner scored from the left side of the penalty box after an East Juniata turnover deep in its own zone for the Indians’ second goal with12:19 left in the first half. Dare converted a second penalty in the 35th minute.
“There were some things that for me were frustrating. It appeared that we were either sluggish defensively or we had some jitters,” East Juniata coach Cory Fronk said. “We gave up two PKs and we left some guys get loose early on. We gave up some pretty good chances and we had some defensive errors that hurt us early on. Credit them, they took advantage of them. We just need to come out and play defense early on.”
East Juniata controlled the tempo throughout the second half and was aggressive in transition, sending multiple long passes ahead of the Juniata defense that Gannon Ryan ran down to set up the Tigers offensively. Brackbill found space inside the box after a nice feed from Cade Brubaker to put the Tigers on the board. East Juniata trailed 3-1 with 35:54 remaining.
The Tigers continued to stage a comeback as multiple scoring chances ended with a cross that was corralled by Juniata keeper Johnny Dessin, who made 13 saves in the game.
“We crossed maybe 10-to-12 balls to the keeper and that’s something we are going to need to work on,” Fronk said. “You figure that at least one of those balls finds a head or a foot if you keep it away from the keeper. That’s troublesome.”
East Juniata’s second goal came with 29:47 left off the foot of Gannon Ryan from the right side of the box. The Tigers found life in the second half in part to the strength of its defense, as the Indians were unable to find many scoring chances.
“Us not having possession of the ball was not part of the plan tonight,” Byler said. “That starts in the middle. We weren’t winning 50-50 balls and we were letting EJ do whatever they wanted. We need to toughen up a little bit.”
Fronk said that the biggest thing for East Juniata is to be ready to go in the opening minutes of the game.
“I think the biggest takeaways for me are that we need to play right from the start and be ready to mark, step to the ball and put pressure on them,” he said. “We need to eliminate the early errors that come from not being ready to go at the start. We also need to clean up some of our shooting. We had a couple shots that went up over the goal. We need to at least make the keeper make a save.”
Byler was pleased that his team was able to stave off a couple late opportunities from the Tigers offense, including a free kick that East Juniata was whistled for offsides on that eliminated a great scoring chance.
“You certainly don’t want to have to hang on tight in the last 15 minutes of a game, we would have liked to control possession a little bit more, but we held on,” he said. “A win is a win and we will take it. We just need to execute some things better.”
Juniata travels to Susquenita on Wednesday while East Juniata hosts Greenwood on Thursday.
Juniata 3, East Juniata 2
Juniata 3 0 — 3
East Juniata 0 2 — 2
Goals: J–Stuart Dare 2, Ben Wagner; EJ–Jake Brackbill and Gannon Ryan. Assists: J- Stuart Dare; EJ–Cade Brubaker, Brackbill. Shots: 15-12, EJ. Corners: 2-1, EJ. Saves: J- Johnny Dessin 13; EJ – Andrew Hunter 8.