Lions fall in title tilt
LORETTO — The Altoona Area High School boys soccer team was clinging to a 1-0 lead midway through the second half of its District 6 Class 6A championship game Tuesday night.
Then State College used a quick spark to turn the tide in its favor.
In a game in which quality scoring opportunities were few and far between, State College made the most of its chances, getting goals from sophomore Owen Hollobaugh and senior Jake Jeffries six minutes apart as time was winding down to capture the gold medal with a 2-1 victory on Saint Francis University’s DeGol Field.
“In the last 20 minutes, they definitely stepped up their game,” Altoona coach Dave McCarter said of the State College team. “They definitely pressed us more. Both teams had about five quality scoring chances combined in the game, and it all was going to depend on who put them in.”
State College (10-5) made the most of its opportunities. After its offense had been dormant for 64 minutes, State College got the tying goal when Hollobaugh headed a cross from junior Davis Pagett behind Altoona senior keeper Brennen Dugan with 15:58 remaining in regulation.
“It was a good cross and I headed into the left corner of the cage,” said Hollobaugh, who exhibited excellent anticipation on the game-tying goal.
Noticeably energized after getting the tying goal, State College forged ahead to stay when Jeffries put senior forward Grady Ballard’s centering feed into the cage for the game-winning goal with 9:24 left.
“Grady tossed it across to me, their defender touched it, and I chipped it over their goalie,” was how Jeffries described his winning shot.
State College coach Danny Orton said that it was just a matter of his team staying patient.
“We just needed to be calm and focus on getting quality on the ball,” Orton said. “Altoona played well, battled hard, and fought the entire game. We just needed to find a little time on the ball to do what we could do, and we finally got there.”
Altoona took a 1-0 lead on senior forward Austin Kravetz’s goal off a free kick at the 10:30 mark of the first half.
Kravetz had been upended on a breakaway opportunity, then was awarded the free kick that he booted into the upper right corner of the cage, beating State College senior Sasha Mohoruk.
Mohoruk had suffered a head injury in the first minute of the game, and sat out the vast majority of the contest, as junior keeper Matthew Stanier kept Altoona scoreless while making eight saves.
“I’m proud of these guys, we worked really hard this year,” Kravetz said of the Mountain Lions, who finished a 9-2 season. “I think we were the better team tonight, but they just played some long balls down the field, and we didn’t adjust to that.”
McCarter saluted his group for what was an outstanding season-long effort this fall in the shadow of the unprecedented adversity that has been posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This season was so much different than any other season,” McCarter said. “Every match that we played was a gift this year, because we knew that at any time, the season could be taken away from us.
“This was a fantastic group of kids who worked so hard from day one,” McCarter added. “This was a special group that made my job easy.”
Game notes: State College advances into the PIAA playoffs against District 10 champion Erie McDowell on Saturday at a site and time to be determined … The Altoona girls soccer team, which will also advance to the state playoffs after winning the District 6 Class 6A championship, was honored in a halftime ceremony. The Altoona girls were scheduled to play Mifflin County in the district title game tonight, but Mifflin County was forced to forfeit the game due to a COVID-19 situation.
SCORE BY HALVES
State College 0 2 — 2
Altoona 1 0 — 1
1, A–Kravetz (free kick), 10:30.
2, SC–Hollobaugh (Pagett), 24:02.
3, SC–Jeffries (Ballard), 30:06.
Shots on goal: State College 11, Altoona 9.
Saves: Dugan, A, 9; Staniar, SC, 8.
Records: State College (10-5), Altoona (9-2).