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Just in time

Juniata unties knot in final ticks of OT

Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Juniata’s Henry Montoya (10) beats Big Spring’s Max Long to the ball during their nonleague game Tuesday in Mifflintown.

MIFFLINTOWN — Kenny Melara found the ball at his feet and put his foot on the ball, scoring the game-winning goal for Juniata against Big Spring Tuesday.

And he did it in the nick of time — Melara found the net with just 35 seconds on the clock in the second overtime period. giving the Indians a 3-2, nonleague victory in their final regular-season game.

After a scoreless first overtime, it appeared the game was going to end in a tie, but instead quickly became a battle inside the Big Spring box where the Bulldogs were trying to get the ball out. Instead, Melara made the timely kick.

“Kenny Melara deserves all the praise for working hard. That’s one of outside backs getting in and getting a great goal,” Juniata coach Jared Byler said. “But Kenny doesn’t score that goal if our back four isn’t winning balls, keeping Big Spring in. Kenny doesn’t score that goal if our midfielders don’t possess the ball. Kenny doesn’t score the goal if out strikers don’t continue to put pressure.

“That was a teamwork goal,” Byler continued. “Our pressure kept pinning Big Spring further and further back at their end and by then Kenny got his opportunity and took it and put in the back of the net.”

With the win, Juniata ends the regular season with an overall record of 11-6-1. The Indians’ Tri-Valley League season ended at 7-4-1, third in the conference. Juniata is ranked fifth in District 6 Class 2A, pending completion of games by other schools.

For the majority of the first half, neither the Bulldogs nor the Indians managed to get the ball in the other’s net.

The Juniata offense was able to control the pacing of the game with simple ball movement and high pressure on the Big Spring players who had possession of the ball and quickly taking it over to keep the ball on the Bulldogs’ side of the field.

However, Juniata got caught with a counter when Big Spring went on the attack as Lance Perdue launched a deep ball that was well over the heads of the Juniata defensive line and Cace Oburn came zooming past the Indians and fired in the first goal of the game with 15:04 remaining in the half.

Juniata was not discouraged — the Indians went right back into their offense and slowly but surely made their back toward the Big Spring net.

The constant pressure paid off as Juniata was awarded a penalty kick when Big Spring was called for a hold in the box. Senior midfielder Ben Wagner was chosen to go one-on-one with Bulldog goalkeeper Camden Shoemaker, and snuck it by to make it a 1-1 ball game at the break.

“I think what you saw was two different styles of soccer being played tonight,” Byler said. “We tried to possess the ball with short passes and it worked for us. Thats how we been able to score and Big Spring played a more direct, long ball type style of game and it worked well to their skill set and thats how they scored their goals.

“Two very disaplined teams that know how to play within their system and their style,” Byler continued. “We scored out two goals playing our style and they scored their two goals playing their style.”

Juniata kept the intense pressure up early in the second half and created a major opportunity to take the lead as Will Saner had chances to score against Shoemaker. Even when he failed to get the ball in on the first try Saner stayed at it, but so did Shoemaker as the two fired back and forth.

But 10 minutes into the second half, the Indians finally got one to go and took their first lead as Henry Rivas found Jelvin Cardenas, who blasted a rocket that went to the top left corner of the net just out of the reach of Shoemaker to make it 2-1 Juniata.

From then on the Indians continued to hold off the Big Spring offense and were not allowing many chances for the Bulldogs to get a shot off.

Eventually the defense got caught with another big pass. Shoemaker punted the ball well over the heads of the Juniata defense and once again Oburn zoomed right on by and zipped it right past Juniata keeper Nick Dressler to even the game at two apiece.

“It’s just one of those things that just kinda happened,” Byler said. “The ball just kinda snuck through and they got their second goal to tie it up.”

But to the credit of Juniata, the Indians remained focused and never let up with the intensity through both overtimes.

“Its a lot of fun to end your regular season on your home field with a win,” Indians coach Jared Byler said. “You know double overtime win with 35 seconds left on the clock, that’s a nail biter but hey we’re proud of the guys for the way they gritted this out. It’s a great win for us.”

Juniata 3, Big Springs 2 (2OT)

FIRST HALF

B — Cace Oburn (Lance Perdue), 15:04; J — Ben Wagner (PK), 14:02.

SECOND HALF

J — Jelvin Cardenas (Henry Rivas), 29:04; B — Oburn (Camden Shoemaker), 2:25.

SECOND OVERTIME

J — Kenny Melara, 0:35.

Shots: J 14-8. Corners: 7-7. Saves: J-6 (Nick Dressler), B-13 (Shoemaker)

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