HUGHESVILLE - Midd-West was under pressure late in the season as the Mustangs - who last year missed the playoffs for the first time in school history - to secure a spot in the postseason this fall.
In the first round of the District 4 Class AA tournament Wednesday, it was Shamokin who felt the pressure, as Midd-West spent most of the evening in the Indians' end of the field.
And though it took 50 minutes, the pressure offense paid off for the Mustangs, who advanced to the quarterfinals on a 2-0 win over Shamokin at Raymond H. Perritt Stadium. Midd-West faces top seed Warrior Run in Saturday's quarterfinal round, at a site and time to be determined.
Sentinel photo by JEFF?FISHBEIN
Midd-West’s Colton Keister (7) fights for possession against Shamokin’s Brady Haupt, center, as Midd-West’s Trevor Stuck looks on during the District 4 Class AA tournament Wednesday in Hughesville. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com.
While there was plenty of action in the first half, all the important stuff happened after the break. And despite the dominant play of Midd-West for 40 minutes, the first - perhaps best - scoring opportunity of the second went to the Indians, who were awarded a penalty kick two minutes in when a Midd-West player was whistled for throwing an elbow in the box.
"There was a lot of shoulder-to-shoulder stuff going on. Any time you're beating a team everywhere but the scoreboard, and they have that small glimmer of hope ... that would have put more pressure on us," Midd-West coach Chris Sauer said.
The somewhat routine kick was cleaned up by Midd-West keeper Austin Hockenbrock, and the Mustangs turned back to business as usual.
*Midd-West faces Warrior Run Saturday
"We believe we have one of the best keepers in the area too, and he proved that tonight," Sauer said. "When the stage was the biggest tonight, Austin stepped up and was huge on the penalty kick."
It was in the 49th minute of play when the stalemate was broken, and it was Tyler Arbogast who gave his team the only goal it would need. Ty Ross sent a crossing pass from near the goal post not far out, and Arbogast, stationed just past the penalty arc at the top of the box, turned the ball back in and beat Shamokin's Jon Deitrick to the top right corner of the net.
"The goal we scored was a great goal, it was a great series - they were doing what we ask them to do. We wanted to get their keeper moving side to side," Sauer explained.
Deitrick, who played a stellar game for the Indians, was beaten just one other time - and he at least got a piece of that one. With 20 minutes left to play, Austin Good took a setup from Trevor Stuck, and booted one right at the goal. Deitrick tried to punch it over the crossbar, but didn't have enough on it, and the ball ducked under the bar and in.
The scoring was the culmination of Midd-West's relentless offensive push from the first touch. In fact, in the early going, Shamokin's only trips to the Mustangs' defensive third came on free kicks - Deitrick handled most of them, too - but despite the individual effort of Shamokin forward Matt Gass, who was the fastest player on the field, Midd-West had better overall speed, and that allowed the Mustangs to keep the ball under their feet.
"At halftime we told them we were happy with the way they were playing. They were creating a lot of chances. It was just going to take one to finish," Sauer said. "I don't know if they just needed that shot in the arm that they were doing the right things."
Sauer knew that Gass would be the hardest player to mark, and he found a way to control the Indians' top weapon.
"Devaughn Johns did an outstanding job in the back," Sauer said, praising the freshman who was assigned to Gass. "He usually plays up front for us. He's a really gifted, talented player and he's fast. We thought our best move was to match speed for speed. That was a huge key in the game."
A few efforts in the first half could have been goals - Colton Keister had a strong shot midway through the first that was deflected, and Tanner Ebright had heartbreaking post shot late in the half. A few others fell victim to Shamokin's staunch defense in front of the net.