After a scoreless first half, Juniata High School boys soccer coach Clint Brackbill felt that his team needed to play with more conviction in the second half of its District 6 Class AA quarterfinal-round playoff game with Bishop Carroll at Mansion Park Wednesday night.
"I thought we were sluggish in the first half,'' Brackbill said. "We didn't play with purpose. In the second half, we changed that. Once we got into the flow a little bit, we attacked with a purpose, and we attacked as a team.
"We had opportunities in the first half,'' he added. "We just needed to start capitalizing on them in the second half.''
The floodgates opened for Juniata in the last half of the second half, when the Indians scored three unanswered goals to post a 3-0 victory.
The win moved Juniata (10-7-1) into Tuesday's semifinal round against Tyrone at a site to be announced. Bishop Carroll wrapped up a 10-8 season.
Juniata broke open a scoreless tie in the final 20 minutes of the game. Senior forward Nick Gilbert started the uprising, taking a pass from senior defender/midfielder Jose Lopez, twisting his way down the right side of the field, and depositing a kick into the lower left part of the cage behind sophomore Carroll goalkeeper Mitchell Hogue.
"My teammate, Jose Lopez, passed me the ball over the defense, I ran on to it, caught the ball, and shot it,'' said Gilbert, who adroitly sidestepped a Carroll defender on his way to the net. "I knew their keeper [Hogue] was good [against defending] high [shots], because he's pretty tall. So I shot the ball low.''
The goal changed the entire complexion of the game.
After falling behind, Carroll was forced to take some risks on defense, and those risks backfired.
"We were playing three defenders back once we got behind, 1-0,'' Carroll coach Nick Damin said. "We moved another player up the field, and that leaves you vulnerable. But if you lose 2-0 instead of 1-0, you still lose.''
Juniata exploited Carroll's defensive alignment when senior forward Richard Heck found himself open in the middle of the field and scored the Indians' second goal with 10:22 remaining.
Heck added another goal just more than 4 minutes later, to set the final score at 3-0.
The season ended for a resilient Carroll team that sustained more than its share of injuries.
"We had a lot of kids go down with broken bones this year, but it was a case of the next man always stepping up for us,'' Damin said. "This is a really strong group of kids.''
SCORE BY HALVES
Juniata 0 3 - 3
Bishop Carroll 0 0 - 0
Second Half: 1, J-Gilbert (Lopez), 19:37; 2, J-Heck (B. Brackbill), 29:38. 3, J-Heck (Gilbert), 33:44.
Records: Juniata (10-7-1); Bishop Carroll (10-8).