No rest for the weary.
Two days after winning the Mountain League Championship with a victory over Bellefonte, No. 4 Bald Eagle Area traveled to Richland to open the District 6 Class A playoffs against No. 1 Westmont Hilltop.
The last thing the Eagles needed was a double overtime game, but that’s exactly what they got as 80 minutes failed to resolve a 1-1 tie.
Once in overtime, BEA relied on its defense, which kept it in the game throughout regulation and extra time. With a little more than two minutes remaining in the second overtime, Joe Hunt broke through for Westmont Hilltop on a bouncing ball in front of the net to secure the 2-1 win over the Eagles.
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“We knew we had to mark up Roger Affolter and we pretty much took him out of the game,” BEA coach Jason Bair said of the defensive game plan. “It wasn’t even a breakdown there for the game winning goal. It was just one of those cluster goals.”
After battling through two halves and all but two minutes of two overtime periods, Hunt just found himself in the right place at the right time, booting the game-winner through traffic.
Westmont Hilltop’s chances were limited by a stiff backline defense by BEA. Westmont Hilltop received two set pieces just outside the 18-yard box. In one instance, Jordan Brant missed wide on a solid scoring chance. The second was stopped by BEA’s backline.
After multiple chances from Westmont Hilltop, BEA’s defense finally broke with 14 minutes left in regulation. Hunter Williams pushed a ball through the defense to find Dan Yost, who buried his shot into the far post of the goal.
“They were very well meshed together,” Westmont Hilltop coach Jason Hughes said of BEA’s defense. “You could tell they have played together for a while. They were communicating well and their marks were great. It was just great defense.”
Moments after the midway point in the first half, Seth Koleno intercepted a ball near midfield and made a run down the wing for a clear look at the goal. Just before Koleno was able to unload a shot, he was taken down inside the box by a Westmont Hilltop defender, which resulted in PK. Brandon Gettig, who played a monster game at midfield, went to the right side of the goal to give BEA a 1-0 lead.
“They are the leaders of the team and it’s for a reason,” Bair said of Gettig and backline defender Gage Hilderbrand. “They are always in the right place. They give you everything they have. I’m going to miss them.”
Gettig sent through balls up from midfield to produce two BEA corners. He also nearly gave BEA a 2-0 lead with a header that just missed the near post.
With Gettig and a number of players pushing the ball up from midfield, BEA used longed balls through the midfield to setup scoring chances. It resembled the old “dump and chase” hockey style. And it worked.
BEA forced a set piece 15 yards outside the box when it pushed a ball up from midfield. The initial run was stopped, but a foul was called, which gave BEA a set piece chance.
“We were two minutes away from taking it to PKs,” Bair said. “I thought we were going to win the game. We just didn’t put them in the back of the net. I’m proud of the guys.”