HOLLIDAYSBURG - The Tyrone Area High School boys soccer team is in uncharted waters.
The Golden Eagles will be making their first-ever appearance in the District 6-AA championship game after defeating Juniata High School, 2-1 in the 6-AA semifinal round at Hollidaysburg's Tiger Stadium Tuesday night.
Tyrone (14-4-1), the top-seeded team in the 6-AA tournament, will face sixth-seeded Philipsburg-Osceola Thursday night at a site to be named in the 6-AA title game. P-O advanced by defeating second-seeded Bellefonte, 2-1 in the other 6-AA semifinal game Tuesday at Altoona's Mansion Park.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Tyrone’s Alex Bartlett keeps control of the ball as Juniata’s Jose Lopez defends. To view more photos, go to cu.altoonamirror.com.
"It feels great, it's the first time that we're going to the district championship game,'' said senior forward Zach Friday, who scored both Tyrone goals.
Standing just a few feet in front of the cage, Friday opened the scoring by knocking a corner-kick assist from midfielder Bobby Dawson past Juniata junior goalkeeper Matt Coldren just 1:38 into the game.
"The ball just popped loose, and I was there to put it in,'' Friday said.
Fifth-seeded Juniata, which wrapped a 10-8-1 season, tied the score on sophomore midfielder/forward Brand Brackbill's unassisted goal 24:23 into the first half. Brackbill got loose down the right side of the field and layered a shot into the lower left corner of the cage past Tyrone keeper Dominic Berry, who played an otherwise outstanding game.
Berry stopped 10 of 11 shots in the game from Juniata, which enjoyed an overall territorial advantage over 80 minutes of play.
"We had very few scoring chances tonight, but when we got a couple, our execution on offense was good,'' said second-year Tyrone coach Nick Miller. "Juniata deserves a lot of credit. This was the toughest game we've had all year. They kept us on our toes the entire game, but we held it together defensively.''
With the score tied, 1-1 and 7:43 left in the first half, Friday found himself free in front of the Juniata cage and headed an assist from forward Noah D'Angelo past Coldren for what would prove to be the game-winning goal.
"I scored on numerous headers during the season,'' Friday said. "I just went up for it and did what I could there.''
Juniata coach Clint Brackbill - who watched his team fashion an 11-5 direct shots-on-goal advantage, including a 7-1 edge in a scoreless second half - thought his squad left everything out on the field Tuesday.
"We played extremely well tonight,'' he said. "I'm proud of the way our team represented itself as a team in this game. [Tyrone] had three good opportunities in this game, and they were able to finish two of them.''
Thanks to Berry, Tyrone was able to finish off Juniata.
Berry stopped all seven shots that he faced in the second half, including a dandy save on senior forward Nick Gilbert 3:30 into the half, and two good stops on scoring chances by senior midfielder Chantz Imes with 25:12 and 8:15 remaining.
"They had the edge on us in the second half, but we have a great defensive team, and it showed,'' Miller said. "We have our first shot at winning districts, and we've never been in this position before. We've worked real hard to get here. This is a dream come true.''
SCORE BY HALVES
Juniata 1 0 - 1
Tyrone 2 0 - 2
First Half: 1, T-Friday (Dawson), 1:38. 2, J-B. Brackbill (unassisted), 24:23. 3, T-Friday (D'Angelo), 32:17.
Records: Tyrone (14-4-1); Juniata (10-8-1).