MILL HALL — Seventy-one seconds is how long it took for the State College boys’ soccer team’s season to take a turn for the worse.
Soccer coaches repeatedly tell their players, if they give up one goal, guard against a quick second one.
Cumberland Valley scored two goals 71 seconds apart, and that’s all it took to lift the Eagles to a 2-1 victory and end the Little Lions’ season Tuesday night at Central Mountain’s Don Malinak Stadium in the PIAA Class AAA first round.
“They are a momentum team,” coach Dan Orton said. “That was a killer minute right there for us.”
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Joe Benton and Jesse Zimmerman each found the net midway through the second half to lift Cumberland Valley (22-3), which swept a pair of games from the Little Lions (11-6-2) during Mid-Penn Conference play.
“We thought we needed to score early in the second half to win it and we didn’t do that,” Bollinger said. “You can never feel too confident against Cumberland Valley. We knew they had it in them.”
The Eagles head to the quarterfinals Saturday to meet Delaware Valley, a 1-0 winner over Central Bucks East.
Joe Thomas netted a first-half goal for the Little Lions, who were outshot 19-12, while keeper Nate Davis made six saves.
“We knew they had the power to come back,” said Thomas, who saw the Eagles rally from 2-0 down earlier this season. “In this game, 1-0 wasn’t safe enough. We knew we had to get more.”
The outcome turned the tables on State College, which had beaten Cumberland Valley in a shootout on the same Mill Hall field in the same round of last year’s state tournament. The Little Lions eventually made it to the state semifinals before falling in another shootout.
“We were confident coming in,” Bollinger said. “We knew we could beat them. We could have beaten them, but we couldn’t get it done like we did last year.”
Though Cumberland Valley had been outshooting State College, the Little Lions seemed rather comfortable with a 1-0 lead, rarely letting the Eagles make a close run to the net for the early minutes of the second half.
Then it all turned when Riley Katshire unleashed a 30-yard rocket from the sideline that Davis knocked down, but the ball bounced right to the feet of Benton in traffic and the senior forward fired the ball into the net with 17:49 left in regulation.
“We were all a little deflated after the first one,” Bollinger said. “It happens fast.”
On the ensuing kickoff, the ball was back down at that same end of the field within seconds, and soon it was at Zimmerman’s feet. The junior forward took a few steps at the top of the penalty box, then cracked a rocket on which Davis barely moved before the ball was scorching the net a mere 1:11 after the first Eagle tally.
“That was absolute class,” Orton said. “That wasn’t a terrible goal. We were great, we were excellent. It was a great commercial for high school soccer. We played well, they played well, you can’t fault anybody at that point.”
State College had a few runs but never really had any sparkling chances the rest of the night to find an equalizer.
“All season we’ve been resilient, and I knew something was going to come,” Billman said. “We just needed one, and one brought the second goal because that just puts a team on its heels that’s been winning most of the game.”
Thomas’ goal finished off an impressive combination of passes up the field, with the final feed from Bollinger setting up Thomas a step ahead of a defender. Thomas ripped off a shot across to inside the far post 17:11 into the game.
“I pulled a move on the kid and put it bottom-left,” Thomas said. “I knew it wasn’t enough but it definitely helped us.”
About seven minutes later, the Little Lions almost doubled the lead when Connor Gest redirected a ball that trickled just wide of the far post.
“The first half we were really good. We were excellent,” Orton said. “We worked on things in training and we saw them come to fruition. Another great game against another good school.”
Davis had several big saves, but the most brilliant came three minutes after the State College goal, when Max Shedlosky fired the ball from about 12 yards out and Davis, laying on his side, made a kick save to maintain the lead.
It was a tough way for the team to go out after the Little Lions thought for so long their season would last at least a few more days.
“We just played one of the best teams in the state and we played very well,” Orton said. “We kept the ball well, the first 20 minutes of the game we were excellent. We could have scored a couple more goals, and in the second half they got back into it.”