After a defensive struggle in the first half, the second half was filled with firepower.
Bellefonte had the last, best shot.
Daniel Simmon’s second goal of the game with just less than 15 minutes left gave the Red Raiders a 5-4 victory over Bishop Carroll in the District 6 Class AAA semifinals on Tuesday night at Alumni Stadium.
“Offensively I knew we could score with them,” Red Raider coach Scott Martz said. “These guys did. They stepped up when we needed to step up and they put it in the back of the net for us.”
The win sends top-seeded Bellefonte (13-4-2) to the finals for the first time in three seasons at a site and time to be determined. The Raiders will play Nov. 2 against either Hollidaysburg or Huntingdon, who battle in the other semifinal Wednesday.
Alex Horner set up Simmon for the winner and also scored a goal, Marco Mazzei netted one and an own goal accounted for the other Raider tally.
Alex Karlheim and Selvin Maykovich each scored twice for the Huskies (10-9).
After Simmon and Horner each scored goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half, it appeared Bellefonte was ready to breeze to the win.
“We’ve been a second-half team all year long,” said Martz, whose team beat Bishop Carroll 4-0 in last year’s tournament. “We went up 3-1, I’m like, ‘OK, I’m confident right now.’ ”
We’ve been a second-half team all year long. We went up 3-1, I’m like, ‘OK, I’m confident right now.’
Bellefonte coach Scott Martz
The confidence didn’t last long.
Karlheim redirected a feed from Owen Reinhart less than two minutes later to take the margin back to one.
Then Maykovich scored his goals 46 seconds apart, and the Raiders were worried.
“Sort of felt like we would lose the game,” Simmon said. “Then we turned it around.”
Even the Huskies were not thinking the game was over just yet.
“I felt good but I definitely didn’t feel comfortable,” coach Brian Maykovich said. “You knew the second half was going to be back and forth and people were going to get tired, and there would be more goals scored.”
Mazzei calmed the nerves when he beat keeper Andrew Crusciel when he came out to challenge Mazzei at the midpoint of the second half.
That set the stage for Horner to set up Simmon with 14:55 left, with Horner chipping the ball to the top-left corner of the net.
“(Horner) played it to me,” Simmon said. “Took a touch inside and then I just put it away.”
The teams battled to the end. Bellefonte keeper Josh Gaus made a diving save on a shot by Jared Delauter about three minutes later, and in the final minute a free kick by Ryan Karlheim was blocked by Gaus, but the ball pin-balled around the box for several seconds to add to the drama before it was finally cleared.
All night, to the final minute, Bellefonte was trying to find an answer to Bishop Carroll’s speed at the top of its formation.
“Just kind of slow them down,” Martz said. “They’re quick. They have a high-powered offense.”
The Huskies got on the board first when Karlheim took the ball deep, put a move on Gaus and tapped the ball into an open net just over 11 minutes into the game.
Bellefonte tied the game on an own goal when Daniel Catchmark tried to cross the ball to the middle but banked it off a Bishop Carroll defender and into the net.
The defensive battle of the first 40 minutes was a stark contrast to the end-to-end play after the break.
“We were kind of in a bend-but-don’t-break (defense),” Brian Maykovich said. “We were missing a couple players, and you kind of have to play defensively in those situations, especially in the first half. In the second half we tried to open it up a little bit, and that worked — but it didn’t work.”