BELLEFONTE - It's tough enough playing on the road in the quarterfinal round of the District 6 Class AA boys soccer playoff as the lower seed but to fall behind early and often was just to much for the Juniata Indians to overcome in dropping a 5-1 setback to host Bellefonte at Rogers Stadium Thursday evening.
The game began as a chess match with both teams jockeying for position over the opening 18 minutes of play but then the host and top-seeded Red Raiders struck quickly at the 22:35 mark when senior Dakota Nixdorf drilled a shot from midfield that found the net. Bellefonte would not look back in posting the easy win.
But what would be a real backbreaker for the No. 8-seeded Indians came with 1:03 to play in the half when junior Grant Stone received a pass from junior Jordan Newman and managed to drill a hooked shot into the left-corner of the net giving the Red Raiders a 2-0 halftime lead.
"I knew if we got up on them early we would be okay," Bellefonte coach Scott Martz said. "Juniata is a solid team and this is the first time we've beaten them. And I know they are a very solid team that does a nice job of passing the ball. controlling the ball. So luckily we got out early on them and was able to keep the pressure on them."
Bellefonte senior Cole Brungart found the left-corner of the net from 25-yards out to give the Red Raiders a 3-0 lead at the 34:20 mark. A little over three minutes later, senior Tyler Roads found the net from 15-yards out off a pass from Newman and a 4-0 lead.
But the Red Raiders weren't done as Roads added his second goal off a beauty of a sideways bicycle kick from just inside the yellow box line for a 5-0 lead at the 27:20 mark.
Juniata finally broke the shutout at the 9:03 mark when junior midfielder Wyatt Brackbill nailed a direct hook left-to-right into the corner of the net to avoid the goose egg and would set the final score.
"We started really slow," explained Juniata coach Clint Brackbill. "And I know that's no excuse but we are a young team and we graduated a lot so we had our bumps and bruises at the beginning of the season but I thought we messed well at the end of the season. But when you come up against a good team like that (Bellefonte) its going to come at you hard. They played well and they took advantage of the opportunities that they were given but I'm proud of the way my guys finished.
"We lost 11-1 earlier in the season and we played to the 80th minute," added Brackbill. "That's what we stressed all year is you just have to go and give everything you have and at the end if they are a better team and they won and you gave 100 percent that's all you can ask."
Bellefonte managed 16 shots on goal while Juniata attempted 10 shots. Matthew Coldren stopped eight shots for the Indians while the Red Raiders' Shane Kaschalk made six saves.
"Getting behind so quickly really made it tough. They had a big crowd and momentum is a big thing especially with high school boys because it is such an emotional game. There's so much excitement and then you get down one, and even though you can say we've been there and say all you want, but soccer is a tough game to come back from a deficit. Then they added a few more (goals) and it's really tough to come back from, especially on the road."
"We had our chances and I think that was the difference," stated Brackbill. "They (Bellefonte) finished their chances and it wasn't like they had 40 shots, but they did capitalized and finished off the opportunities they had. Bellefonte did a good job and when you get to the playoffs that' pretty much it. You aren't going to get 30-40 shots so you need to have a high-percentage and finish and Bellefonte did it tonight."