HOLLIDAYSBURG — Experience on the state level can prove to be an insurmountable advantage.
The Philipsburg-Osceola boys soccer team found that out first hand in its first foray against the state’s best, as Lancaster Mennonite utilized its lessons learned the past two years and the motivation from a 1-0 loss in the District 3 championship game to end the Mounties’ season.
The Blazers controlled the tempo from the onset, netting a goal in each half to end P-O’s season 2-0 on Tuesday night at Tiger Stadium in Hollidaysburg.
“It was our first time in the state tournament and we saw some next-level soccer there,” said Mounties head coach Shawn Inlow. “Their boys were better than us, no question about it. I think we can take a little bit of pride in that we held them out pretty well.
“They possessed it all day, but we were very resolute and hard to score against. They certainly had some good chances.”
Lancaster Mennonite was frustrated by the Mounties’ Jay Prentice, who stymied shot after shot in the early going.
Prentice made a couple of saves that would have put his team in a hole had he not been between the pipes, but the Blazers eventually cracked the P-O senior at the 16:44 mark.
Lancaster Mennonite had six quality shots against Prentice before C.J. Sturges’ shot found the back of the net.
“Their keeper was outstanding, and that was the scouting report that I had,” Blazer head coach Fred Winey said. “I could tell from articles that I’ve read that he’s been outstanding and that they had a lot of shutouts.
“We had numerous opportunities and he came up big for them. The score would have been vastly different if they had a different keeper in, I think.”
While a 1-0 deficit might not seem like a lot to make up, it was an insurmountable margin for P-O with the way the Blazers possessed the ball.
The Mounties had just two shots on Lancaster Mennonite goalie Jacob Hertzler, who calmly turned each one way.
Conversely, the Blazers pelted Prentice with 15.
“We maybe had two or three opportunities — maybe — in the game,” said Inlow. “We couldn’t possess the ball. Those boys showed us the way. That’s the next level, and that’s what we’ve got to get to. It’s a credit to those guys, they’re a tremendous team.”
The deficit doubled for the Mounties early in the second half, as Ian Burkhart took a pass from Sturges and put a shot on frame.
Prentice made the save, but the ball skipped away and Burkhart was there to bury it.
“In a game like this when it’s 1-0,” said Winey, “if you make a mistake all the momentum can shift and anything can happen. We had a lot of possession in our district championship game … and, all of a sudden, they have a goal.
“If you let a team hang around, the more dangerous (they are) and the more pressure there is. Getting that goal helped settle us, to a certain degree.”
The Blazers (18-8) are back in action Saturday against Quaker Valley, which topped General McLane 1-0 in double overtime on Tuesday.
The Mounties completed the season with a 14-5-4 mark and will say goodbye to eight seniors.
“I’m really proud tonight that the guys never, ever hung their head and they never quit,” Inlow said. “I think they knew they weren’t in this game, but they didn’t stop. That’s a great characteristic and it’s a great trait on these guys.
“I hope they (Mountain League coaches) think we’re going to have a down year, but we’re not … we’ll be back.”