MILL HALL — Thursday’s District 6 Class AA boys’ soccer game between Bellefonte and Bald Eagle Area was everything that one would expect from the Centre County rivals.
Scoreless for more than 50 minutes in frigid conditions at Don Malinak Stadium, Red Raiders reserve Tanner Light booted in a goal during a scramble at the front of the net to give Bellefonte a 1-0 win.
The Red Raiders (15-4) won their 11th straight game and advanced to the District 6 title game for the first time in school history. They’ll face Philipsburg-Osceola, which defeated Tyrone 2-1 in overtime on Thursday night, at 5 p.m. Saturday at Hollidaysburg.
“I told the fellas at halftime that this was going to be a 1-0 game,” Bellefonte coach Scott Martz said. “I told them it was going to come down to a breakaway or a fluke goal and that’s what happened.”
Following an opening 40 minutes in which both team had opportunties to score only to be stonewalled by the post and excellent goalkeeping, Bellefonte broke the drought on a throw-in deep in the BEA end.
Light, a defender who moves to the front on corner kicks and throw-ins because of his 6-foot-2 stature, became the hero. The throw-in glanced off a Bellefonte head down to Light’s feet and he poked a shot just out of reach of Eagles goalie Ben Leskovansky. Andrew Light got the assist on the play.
“When he came off, I asked him what happened,” Martz said. “He told me, ‘Coach I just got a toe on it.’ He was in the right spot at the right time.”
The fluky goal was the difference in the well-played game.
The Eagles, thanks to the goal and Bellefonte keeper Shane Kaschalk, could never find the net.
BEA hit the crossbar twice in the first half and Kaschalk did the rest. “They had two breakways,” Martz said. “Shane came out and shut them down both times.”
“The luck just didn’t fall our way, and we couldn’t get one to slide in,” BEA coach Jason Bair said. “It’s not like we weren’t putting the pressure on and from the way the game started I figure it would only take one goal to win the game.”
Kaschalk finished with seven saves, while Leskovansky had six, including a spectacular grab on a rebound from point-blank range.
Both teams attempted seven shots and BEA had just one more corner kick than Bellefonte in the tight thriller.
“It was more than just a district title game,” Martz said. “It was a game between two rivals and it was just an excellent game.”
Getting the win marked a landmark for the Raiders.
“This is huge,” Martz said. “We started out a little slow, but we’re on a roll right now.”
Though disappointed, Bair expressed joy on two fronts.
“I told myself before the game that this was going to be a win-win outcome,” Bair said. “Either we were going to win and go to the championship game or my best friend (Martz) was going to get to go. I’m happy for my buddy and the best of luck to Bellefonte. I got to work with a great group of guys this season and I think when most these players were in ninth grade, they didn’t win a single game. And now for them to get to this point, I’m extremely proud of the way they played.”