Late throw-in goal brings Heights’ season to end

As the time ticked off the clock and the game remained scoreless, it appeared as though the first goal would be the difference in a District 6 Class 2A boys soccer semifinal between Cambria Heights and Bald Eagle Area.

Both teams scrapped and clawed to score the first goal. However, Bald Eagle’s Hunter Etters and Cambria Heights’ Cody Patterson were able to keep the wildly entertaining game in a deadlock at zero.

But in the 75th minute, Bald Eagle sophomore Garrett Giedroc scored on a Joey Gates throw-in to advance to the school’s first district finals appearance with a thrilling 1-0 victory at Altoona’s Mansion Park.

“The loss hurts but I’m extremely proud of our guys,” Cambria Heights first-year coach Adam Strasser said. “They played as hard as they could. Sometimes balls just don’t bounce your way. They didn’t today but Bald Eagle is a fantastic team.

“I thought we played well, I could not ask them to do anymore.”

Third-seeded Bald Eagle, who advances to Thursday’s district championship tilt against top-seeded Everett that will kick off at 5:30 at Mansion Park, held a discernable advantage in terms of possession and shots on goal.

“We were waiting for that one break for that ball to go in. There were multiple opportunities where we had it and we just didn’t get enough of a foot on the ball to put it in,” Bald Eagle coach Jason Bair said. “Finally, G came through with the throw in and was able to get a foot on the ball and put it in with less six minutes to go.

“We started this program 17 years ago, this will be our first district championship game. I’m pretty excited as a coach, pretty excited for these players for all of the hard work they put in.”

With both teams failing to capitalize on its scoring chances, the game appeared to be heading to overtime. But Bald Eagle, who held a slight 14-11 edge in deep territory throw ins, was finally able to find the back of the net.

Gates threw the ball in from the far right corner. After taking a high bounce parallel with the goal line, Giedroc made a frantic dash and kicked the lone goal home on a sliding shot before the ball got past the far post. Giedroc leapt in celebration of his third goal of the season before being mugged by teammates.

“It just felt great. I was in the right spot at the right moment,” Giedroc said. “We all contributed as a team to get the victory.”

Despite Bald Eagle earning a 21-13 advantage in shots and 14-3 difference in shots on goal, the Highlanders’ defense and Patterson were up to the task. T­hey were under siege all night but found a way to keep the game scoreless until there was 5:56 left.

“He’s been an extremely good keeper all season. He had some remarkable saves today,” Strasser said of Patterson, who made 13 saves. “Even the goal, I wouldn’t say that was his fault. There was a lot of chaos going on around the net and it just kind of popped in.”

Second-seeded CH, seeking its first district finals game since 2006, had a couple of chances late on throw-ins but could not get a clear look at the net. Matt Milanesi’s shot after a direct kick went wide left with 2:10 to go.

The Highlanders’ seven-game winning streak ended but the squad won its first Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference Section 1 title since 2009. Five senior starters, including leading scorers Matthew Weimert and Tyler Scott, helped raise the profile of the program once again.

“I could not be more proud of this group of kids. They came to practice and worked with everything they had, every day,” Strasser said. “They were just a tremendous group of kids. We’re going to miss all the seniors. “

SCORE BY HALVES

Bald Eagle Area    0 1–1

Cambria Heights    0 0–0

SECOND HALF: BEA–G. Giedroc (Gates), 5:56.

Records: Bald Eagle Area (14-4-2); Cambria Heights (15-5).

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