The Bellefonte boys’ soccer team couldn’t generate much offense in transition Thursday night, so it relied heavily on long throws into the box by Andrew Stover to create scoring chances.
Despite being out-possessed and outshot, the Red Raiders needed one timely toss from Stover to come out on top.
Huntingdon defender Ryan Shelley was whistled for a handball in the box near the endline off a deep Stover throw with 26:14 to play in the game. Grant Stone then buried the penalty kick to push the Red Raiders past Huntingdon 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the District 6 Class AA playoffs.
“It’s worked all season for us,” Bellefonte coach Scott Martz said. “We’ve scored a goal on that in every game but two this season. That’s a huge asset for us.”
Saturday, Huntingdon blanked Bellefonte, 1-0, and scored its only goal on a penalty kick in the last game of each team’s regular season.
This was the big one, though. The No. 2-seeded Red Raiders (12-5-1) kept their season alive with the win and will play Phillipsburg-Osceola next week. The two teams played to a scoreless tie on Sept. 10 and Bellefonte downed P-O 2-1 on Oct. 3. Sixth-seeded Phillipsburg-Osceola upset third-seeded Forest Hills on Tuesday.
Thursday, Stone had some chances in transition, but couldn’t capitalize. But on his penalty kick, the senior was confident. He’s converted each of his five attempts this season and tucked this one low and just inside the left post past a diving Kody Heaton, who guessed the correct side.
“I haven’t missed one yet, so I was trying to keep it up,” Stone said. “I knew where I was going the whole time, picked my spot and finished. Season on the line is pressure, but I can handle it.”
Huntingdon’s offense ran through senior forward Matt Wilson, who had nearly half the Bearcats’ shots.
Seventh-seeded Huntingdon (5-11-1) threatened early thanks to the creativity of Wilson. He was stopped at point-blank range by goalkeeper Matt Feldman off a corner kick four minutes in, then a minute later, he put the ball through a defender’s legs, but had two more swarm him just a few feet from Bellefonte’s keeper to thwart that opportunity.
With 16 minutes to play in the first half, Wilson teed up a ball perfectly for midfielder Kyler Miller, who hit the top of the crossbar from just outside the box.
“Second half, I told the guys to watch him and stay close to (Wilson),” Martz said. “The last five minutes, I told the guys to man mark him and know where he’s at at all times.”
The Bearcats’ last good opportunity came with about 15 minutes left, when Wilson got free in the middle and tried to beat Feldman to the near side from just inside the box. Bellefonte’s goalie was equal to the task. He finished with six saves — several in the game’s opening minutes.
“They had a fast-paced offense and kept me moving the whole game,” Feldman said. “When it’s this cold out, it’s definitely important to be moving early.”
Martz said Feldman has become a more vocal leader as the season has gone on. He’s now commanding the defense better and will get to play another game with this group because of the win Thursday.
Huntingdon’s season ended, but coach Phil Hawkins was proud of the way his group battled. He was somewhat surprised his team got in as the final seed in the tournament after winning just five games — but Martz called the Bearcats the most dangerous five-win team he’s seen.
“They knew they deserved to be here,” Hawkins said of his players. “These kids deserved to go and I think we proved that we deserved to be here.”