LOYSBURG - While most of the Bedford soccer players were equipped with long sleeves and gloves prior to Tuesday's PIAA Class AA first-round game against South Fayette, Bisons forward Sebastien Jene-Aljua stood at midfield with neither, attempting to get warm.
That warming up took less than five minutes.
Jene-Aljua, a senior foreign exchange student, scored the first of his two goals just 4:48 into the game as Bedford rallied past WPIAL runner-up South Fayette, 4-2, at Northern Bedford County's Panther Community Stadium to advance to the state quarterfinals for the second straight season.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Bedford’s Alex Kendall (15) celebrates Sebastien Jene-Aljua’s goal in the first half.
Jene-Aljua and forward Lalo Munoz combined for three Bisons goals, and made life miserable for the Lion defenders.
"They're a good combination," Bedford coach Jeff Thomas said of Jean-Aljua and Munoz. "When they're on, they're on."
After South Fayette tied the game on a goal by Brian Coyne, Bedford (20-0-2) took control and never looked back.
Bedford's Blake Baer stormed through South Fayette's defense before passing the ball across the box, where Munoz beat the Lions' goalie to his left to take a 2-1 lead. Munoz's goal came just minutes after he hit the crossbar from a similar spot on the field.
"Lalo had his first shot go over the top," Thomas said. "I told him to keep it down and the next one he got down low pretty solid. From there on we just started hitting the back of the net."
Just 27 seconds later, Jene-Aljua netted his second goal of the game after he found a loose ball and easily put it into the net.
The goal gave the Bisons some breathing room and put the pressure on South Fayette to adapt.
"When they build a 3-1 lead it takes us out of our defense," South Fayette coach Rob Eldridge said. "It changes our game all together and gives their players a little more freedom that they would have in a tighter game.
"We had couple miscues in the first half and they were able to free a couple kids up who made quality finishes."
Bedford's precise passing game combined with the early lead provided plenty of scoring opportunites for the Bison from all parts of the field.
"We kept changing the ball inside and outside," Thomas said. "We had corner runs from our midfielders and had different people crossing the ball instead of just our outside midfielders."
South Fayette had given up just seven goals in its 22 previous games this season, but could not find the answer for the two Bison forwards.
"It was an uncharacteristic game for us," Eldridge said. "It was a poor defensive performance."
Garrett Thomas added Bedford's fourth goal on a pass from Logan Myslinski, before South Fayette's Hunter White scored with 43 seconds remaining to close the scoring.
The Lions made the 135 mile trip to Loysburg, a field that Bedford has become accustomed to playing in recent years.
"I think it helps," Thomas said. "We have been in the state tournament the last four years. We have a lot of kids who have been around and are familiar with it, so that helps, too."
Bedford will move on to face District 10 champion Harbor Creek on Saturday, a rematch from last year's PIAA quarterfinals, which Bedford won, 1-0.
SCORE BY HALVES
South Fayette1 1 - 2
Bedford 3 1 - 4
First Half: B-Jene-Aljua (unassisted), 4:48; SF-Coyne (unassisted), 16:44; B-Munoz (Baer), 24:56; B-Jene-Aljua (unassisted), 25:23.
Second Half: B-Thomas (Myslinski), 71:25; SF-White (unassisted), 79:17.
Records: South Fayette (17-4-2); Bedford (20-0-2).