High School Sports

Perfect set piece returns Bellefonte boys’ soccer to district final

Bellefonte midfielder Evan Nyquist, left, and defender Ryan Houser celebrate winning a game against Huntingdon on Monday.
Bellefonte midfielder Evan Nyquist, left, and defender Ryan Houser celebrate winning a game against Huntingdon on Monday. psheehan@centredaily.com

With a stiff wind, perfect passes and shots were hard to come by Monday night at Alumni Stadium.

But the wind also could lend an assist, especially when the Bellefonte boys’ soccer team had Seth Johnson on the sideline for a throw-in.

The set piece worked to perfection.

Evan Nyquist redirected the throw into the net as the Red Raiders blanked Huntingdon 1-0 to book a District 6 Class 3A championship rematch.

“It always takes just one ball to get into the back of the net,” Nyquist said. “You’ve got to stay focused on the end goal — to win the game.”

Bellefonte (13-5) will meet Hollidaysburg, a 4-1 winner over Bishop Carroll, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Altoona’s Mansion Park. The Golden Tigers triumphed when the teams met in last season’s district final.

While Josh Gaus made four saves for the shutout, he didn’t have to work too hard. Hardly any balls got through into challenging situations for the Bearcats (8-7-4), who took only nine shots.

“They’ve been outstanding all season long,” Bellefonte coach Scott Martz said about his defensive backs. “They communicate really well, and they work really well together.”

The low shot count was not atypical for Huntingdon, which rarely had the ball in the final third of the field.

“We’ve not been a goal-scoring team all year,” Bearcats coach Phil Hawkins said. “We’ve had a lot of trouble scoring goals. ... We had plenty of opportunities to shoot and didn’t. That’s been the story all season.”

With the added challenge of the strong wind, and Bellefonte continuing to push forward offensively, Martz noticed the ball was rolling more frequently out of bounds on the far side — where the wind could help, prompting Johnson to be sent into the game.

Not long after he entered, Johnson had the ball deep along the sideline ready for the golden opportunity.

“We’ve been having them all year — big throw-ins and trying to get them into the box,” Nyquist said. “Without the wind it might have gone a little shorter, maybe gone to the near post and we wouldn’t have had as great of a chance of getting it to the net.”

The ball sailed perfectly to Nyquist’s head, and the junior midfielder placed it inside the opposite post. Bellefonte also was able to take advantage of Huntingdon’s weakened defense after losing a center back to injury in the game’s opening minutes.

“We defended it, for the most part, other than the one mistake we made on the goal they scored,” Hawkins said.

Bellefonte, which had 13 shots with seven on frame, had a handful of opportunities in the first half without success, including Daniel Catchmark ringing a try off the post from close range.

Bearcat keeper Isaac Snare made six saves.

The Red Raiders are looking forward to the rematch with Hollidaysburg, not only from last year’s district final, but also from a 1-0 Bellefonte win earlier this season on the Raiders’ home field.

“We want to get them back from last year,” Nyquist said. “Get revenge from the district championship.”