LEWISTOWN - It takes 80 minutes to play a soccer match. It took Cedar Cliff just nine minutes to win one Wednesday.
Cedar Cliff put four balls in the net in that brief time span, building an insurmountable lead that ended in a 5-0 Commonwealth Division victory for the visiting Colts against Mifflin County.
Cedar Cliff didn't take long to go after the goal - in fact, the game was not even a minute old when Derek Heimbach had to make his first stop. He did - and did it plenty more times before the day ended, which is one reason his team can claim improvement against the Colts from their first meeting.
Sentinel photo by BRADLET KREITZER
Mifflin County’s Matt Hackenberry (18) heads the ball away from the Huskie goal over Cedar Cliff’s Alex LaFaver Wednesday in Lewistown.
"That's been who Derek is all year. He's been solid in the cage," Mifflin County coach Jared Byler said. "A lot of the goals we've given up this year have not been on his behalf. There's 10 other guys in front of him that they've got to get through before they get to Derek. We've been working on our defense a lot and as the season progresses we've been giving up fewer and fewer goals each game."
The scoring flurry in the first was a perfect storm of balls that reminded the Huskies they need to stay on their toes in the Mid-Penn. Cedar Cliff's Bubba Pellish snaked a header by Heimbach. Joey Gallucci took one through a crowded box and put it away. Luke Dugan went east-west then dumped it in. And Cody Summers came off the bench to score on a corner.
Byler said his team just wasn't mentally prepared for that aggressive play.
IF YOU GO
Mifflin County travels to Chambersburg today
"The worst thing we did all game was starting the game slow," he said. "We had no energy for the first half of the game at all. (We were) not challenging the ball in the air, not tackling hard - we basically just let Cedar Cliff have their way with us."
The Colts crowded the ball, making it hard for the Huskies to move to it and generate any offense. When something good happened for Mifflin County, it always seemed as if something bad happened seconds later - one step forward, two back could have been the Huskies' motto in the game.
Even the fans seemed flustered - a group of students on the hill overlooking the field tried to cheer on their team at one point, and nearly spelled the name of the mascot incorrectly. It was not a good first half.
But as time was running low, a few good things happened. Most notably, Mifflin County's only corner kick led to two solid tries at the goal, a header that was turned away and then a straight kick that almost slid by the keeper. And James Wilburne bent a direct kick late in the half to the upper corner of the goal, but it went just outside the frame.
"We've been working on how to create some offense, generate some numbers out of situations when we have the ball attacking inside our own 18," Byler said. "They're a very organized team in the back who just didn't allow it to happen."
And that showed in the second half, when Cedar Cliff was less dominant, at times not even controlling the play. One Mifflin County drive was killed by an offside call when a defender appeared to be ahead of the play, and the Colts were held to a few chances, none dangerous.
If Mifflin County had scored after the break it likely would have been Ian McGinnis who did it. The senior midfielder was a one-man soccer explosion in the second, trying to take advantage of three huge opportunities in the second half. He had a line on a deflection with an open goal but slid as he tried to turn into the ball. He put a cross in front of the goal but the Colts' keeper stopped it. And he drove the net late in the contest, only to be turned away by a stingy defense.
"One of the things we challenged Ian with was to just slow himself down and allow the game to come to him instead of rushing it and trying to force things to happen," Byler said. "The last two games he's really stepped up. When Ian does that he's a very deadly player - he's one of the fastest guys on the field."
One more did get in the net, although not without controversy - Cedar Cliff's Andrew Greene scored on a breakaway that began when he used his chest and arms to control the ball; Byler and the Huskies argued fruitlessly for a hand ball call on the play.
Mifflin County (1-11) travels to Chambersburg today.