MIFFLINTOWN - Belleville Mennonite coach Brian Renno described the first half against Juniata as dry.
And with a 1-0 lead heading into the break, the game was still up in the air.
But lo and behold, the Trojan offense found a spark from leading scorer Andrew Miller and forward Austin Byler.
Sentinel photo by BRADLEY KREITZER
Belleville Mennonite’s Andrew Miller (17) controls the ball as Juniata’s Brennan Paden (24) defends Monday afternoon in Mifflintown. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
Belleville Mennonite scored four second half goals to fight off a late surge from the Indians to take a 5-2 non-league boys soccer matchup, Monday in Mifflintown.
"We were hoping to go into the half tied or with the lead," Renno said. "We challenged them in the second half. We were playing dry soccer."
But in the second half, Renno got his boys to play with a little more fire, especially early when the Trojans found the net twice in the first four minutes.
*Belleville Mennonite travels to Harrisburg Academy Thursday
*Juniata hosts East Juniata Wednesday
"In the second half we didn't really make too many adjustments." he said. "It was just mental."
For Juniata coach Clint Brackbill, "It all came down to heart."
"They wanted it more than we did," he said.
And for the last 20 minutes, the Indians displayed how powerful its offense can be. But, "It was too little, too late," Brackbill said.
In a first half, in which both teams struggled offensively, Belleville Mennonite managed to get some things going in the first 10 minutes.
Freshman Noah Anders highlighted a nice string of plays when he found twine just eight minutes into the matchup. He was set up nicely by Miller.
But for the final 32 minutes of the opening half things were sluggish on both ends of the field. For the most part, the game was being played between the 18s.
"I thought the first 15 minutes we played okay," Renno said. "After that we had a let down - Monday legs."
Renno explained that he really only made one halftime adjustment, and that was mental. He challenged his squad, and in the next 20 minutes, the Trojans came up big.
Miller and Byler scored less than a minute apart to break open a fairly even game.
Miller, who broke Belleville Mennonite's career goal-scoring record earlier this season, took advantage of Juniata keeper Matt Coldren coming out of the box to make a play on the ball. Miller squeezed the ball past him.
Byler had a direct kick from about 30 yards out and wove it through defenders in front of Coldren to make it 3-0 in favor of the visitors in the 44th minute.
It would only take one more goal to really put the game out of reach. And Byler was the force behind that. His tally with 20 minutes to play put Belleville Mennonite up 4-0 and seemingly put the game to rest.
But then something changed.
Juniata started to pressure the ball at all points of the pitch. Jose Lopez's hard work in front of the net finally got Juniata on the board just 24 seconds after Byler's second goal.
And Juniata wasn't finished yet.
Brandon Becker played a ball in the right corner for Juniata and served up a beauty to Lopez. The Juniata striker finished off the goal and cut Belleville Mennonite's lead in half with six minutes to play.
"We've been behind in a lot of games this season and we've won a lot of them," Brackbill said. "If you're going to give 100 percent we have a shot to win."
But like Brackbill said, it was indeed too little, too late.
Miller added his second goal with just 1:28 remaining on the clock for the 5-2 final.
Things will not get any easier for Brackbill and Juniata. The Indians will host rival East Juniata Wednesday and will host Greenwood Saturday. Belleville Mennonite travels to Harrisburg Academy Thursday.
"It's a good win for us," Renno said. "It's a good way to start off our week. We played pretty well last week and I was hoping it carried over."