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East Juniata survives Indians rally

Brackbill scores twice in Tigers’ win

Sentinel photo by MIKE GOSS
Juniata’s Jack Strawser and East Juniata’s Aden Fronk fight for possession of the ball.

MIFFLINTOWN — Juniata played host to county rival East Juniata in boys soccer on Tuesday and the always-exciting matchup lived up to the hype as the Tigers came away with a 3-2 win. There were yellow cards, verbal warnings, words exchanged between players, and tough, physical soccer that resulted in an entertaining game for Juniata County fans to enjoy.

“Anybody that was here certainly got their price of admission,” Juniata coach Jared Byler joked. “It was a well-played game by both sides.”

For the first 65 minutes of the game, East Juniata was in control. The Tigers got a first half goal by Blaise Lauver and a quick, second-half strike by Jake Brackbill to put the visiting team up 2-0.

“We made two mental errors that cost us dearly,” Byler said. “You have to credit EJ for working hard. When you work hard, you force the other team to make mistakes and that’s what they did twice, and they were able to capitalize on.”

The Tigers’ defense was strong all afternoon and looked to close out the game to complete the shut out. However, Juniata got on the board when defender Brant Walters came across midfield, made a great play with the ball, getting past two Tigers and delivering a hard kicked shot into the back of the goal, cutting the deficit to one.

Juniata rode the momentum and while the Tigers tried to kill the clock, the Indians played more aggressive. With under four minutes, the Indians were pulling out all the stops in an attempt to tie the game late. Walter sent a nice pass to Bryce Rush, who connected on a shot which sailed past Tigers’ goalkeeper Kobe Bonnell for the game-tying goal.

“We’ve been in numerous games like that. We’ve lost leads. That was not unfamiliar,” Tigers coach Cory Fronk said. “I’m glad that we got a win out of it, but it’s disappointing to just have 15 minutes in every game where we just lose track of what we’re trying to do. I think they just lost their mental focus.”

As the home crowd celebrated their team’s inspired comeback, the Tigers looked to play the spoiler in a game they led by multiple goals in the final 15 minutes.

With the score tied, it was now East Juniata that began to play aggressive offense.

With 97 seconds left in regulation, Brackbill got the ball deep in Indians’ territory. Multiple defenders swarmed him, but Brackbill made a quick move that got him an open look for a split second. The Tigers’ senior took advantage and fired a rocket that bounced off the cross bar and into the net for the go-ahead goal.

Byler credits his team for taking advantage of a few Tigers’ mental mistakes and being able to claw their way back into the game despite being outplayed for the first 65 minutes.

“We came together as an 11 and got ourselves back in, but unfortunately, we shot ourselves in the foot at the end,” Byler said.

Fronk and the Tigers were able to salvage a game that they should have been able to close out without drama, a common theme for their season so far.

“I don’t want to say everything negative,” Fronk admitted. “For probably 40 minutes of the game, I felt like the team was doing well and doing some of the things I’ve been asking them to do. But we just lost our focus again for at least 15 minutes.”

East Juniata 3, Juniata 2

First half

EJ — Blaise Lauver, 5:10.

Second half

EJ — Jake Brackbill (Owen Dressler), 32:26. J — Brant Walters (Henry Montoya), 14:07. J — Bryce Rush (Walters), 3:52. EJ — Brackbill, 1:37.

Shots: EJ 9-7. Corners: EJ 6-3. Saves: J-4 (Nick Dressler), EJ-3 (Kobe Bonnell).

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