Tigers honored for successful season
EJ made D4 title game, have five All-Stars
COCOLAMUS — The East Juniata boys soccer team rode a star-studded lineup to a District 4 Class A championship game appearance but came up just short in a 2-1 loss to Meadville.
The Tigers had a rough start to the 2020 season, dropping their season and Tri-Valley League opener to rival Juniata in a 3-2 thriller, before finding themselves in an early hole.
East Juniata rallied and went on a tear to the D4 final, but in a COVID-19 season, the PIAA Championship bracket was shortened to just district champions, leaving the Tigers out of the state tournament.
“We had a bit of a slow start to our season,” East Juniata coach Cory Fronk said. “We lost our first game and we were like 1-3 and it wasn’t a good way to start. I knew that these kids could come together and play well and that was what we expected in the beginning.”
East Juniata cruised through the District 4 Class A Tournament, earning a forfeit in the opening round before shutting out Central Columbia, 4-0 to set up the clash with Meadville. The Tigers finished the season at 10-4-1 and scored 45 goals while limiting their opponents to just 14.
“At times, we finally got rolling a little bit and they played excellent,” Frank said. “We had a little bit of trouble scoring goals, but by the time that we reached the end of the season we had started to reach the point that we had wanted to be.”
The Tigers ended the season with five players being honored by the Tri-Valley League as All-Stars, including two first-team selections and three second-team selections. Forward Cade Brubaker was named the Tri-Valley League MVP, while Fronk was named the Coach of the Year by the league.
Cy Fronk and Brubaker were first team selections, while Jake Brackbill, Tim Black and Gannon Ryan earned second-team honors.
Brubaker was one of the Tigers’ leaders offensively, finishing the season with 11 goals and six assists for 28 total points. Brubaker was third in TVL play in assists and fourth in the league in goals and points.
“Cade was a very big part of our possession soccer,” Fronk said. “He was able to work from side to side and show in the right spots. He was really integral to helping us keep the soccer ball. He also is a very good deliverer of passes in behind defenses and is very perceptive of where the ball should be played and when it should be played. He was right at the top of the league in the points. He and Jake Brackbill were right at the top of the points list.”
Brackbill was the Tigers’ best threat to put the ball in the back of the net and was an elite attacker in league play. Brackbill finished TVL play with 11 goals and two assists.
“Brackbill led our team in goals and he is good in the air, he scored several headers,” Fronk said. Jake is a big strong kid who also holds the ball really well. He has a sense of which way to turn and how to create scoring chances for himself and making space to get a shot. He’s excellent with his back to the goal.”
In the midfield, Ryan was an elite player who worked well on the right side of the field to set up both Brubaker and Brackbill in transition. Ryan led the TVL with eight assists in 10 league games.
“He has good speed and he’s intelligent about how to play soccer,” Fronk said. “He has really good head-to-head dribbling skills. A lot of times we would go down the right side because of him being out there. He was one of the better players in getting assists and that’s what you want out of your outside striking players.”
On the defensive side, Cy Fronk was an elite player in the back line and was regularly tasked with taking away their opponents’ best player.
“In my mind, Cy is one of the top individual marking players in the league,” Fronk said. “He’s able to mark and track players on the other team that we need to disrupt or take away what they are used to doing. Cy is one of the best at doing that. He’s very quick and recovers quickly if he got out of position. He’s also very fast. When we have another player on the other team that we need to take care of or needs to be watched, we have Cy watch those things.”
Black on the other hand, became a big piece of the backline and was especially skilled in directing his teammates to keep them in position.
“Tim has a really strong right foot and can deliver the ball accurately from long distance which is really unusual in high school soccer, where a guy can play a ball from 50 yards and even keep it down on the ground if necessary or very close to the ground,” Fronk said. “He can play the ball very well in the air as well and he’s good with a defensive header. He’s really improved marking wise and he took on a leadership role communicating with the backline.”
Overall, Fronk is excited to see what the future holds for the Tigers.
“Through the winter I hope that we can get these guys together and work,” Fronk said. “We are losing seven seniors and all of them were quality players. We will have some quality players that will step in but you never want to lose good players. I feel like we have players that can move into vacant positions and do excellent for us. We just need to get guys in the right spot and have them learn how to work with one another and a new set of players.”