State College’s Kyle Moerschbacher charged down the field with an open lane toward the goal.
It was late in the second half, and Moerschbacher had an opportunity to add an insurance goal and put away Central Mountain in the District 6 Class AAA semifinals. Central Mountain’s Kevin Hook didn’t make it easy, sprinting alongside and bumping Moerschbacher with every stride.
But Moerschbacher fought off the pressure and sent a shot that went through the hands of Wildcats goalkeeper David Kohen and into the back of the net.
“I just didn’t think about it,” Moerschbacher said. “I just looked at the ball, kept my body composure, kept my strength and hit the shot with good power and it worked out.”
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It worked out for third-seeded State College as the goal sealed a 3-1 win over second-seeded Central Mountain on Monday. The Little Lions took the lead in the first minute and controlled play for the first 65 minutes before the Wildcats got on the board to set the stage for a tense finish. Moerschbacher finished with two goals to lead State College, which outshot Central Mountain 15-5.
The Little Lions (11-6-2) will face top-seeded Hollidaysburg in the championship game at Bald Eagle Area on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Hollidaysburg beat Altoona 1-0 in overtime in its semifinal matchup. State College is looking to win its fourth straight district title.
“We’re confident, but we know that we can play a little bit better than we did tonight,” State College coach Danny Orton said. “I thought some of the interchanges up front and the link-up play wasn’t our best. But I thought Central Mountain fought well and defended well at times and we just couldn’t quite get in behind them with our danger players as often as we can.”
Still, the Little Lions capitalized on an early opportunity to take control.
State College’s Eli Smith sent a corner kick that went untouched right along the goal
The ball was eventually deflected by multiple players and sent toward the net by Central Mountain. State College’s Mac Schailey gave it the final push past Kohen, who finished with eight saves for the Wildcats.
“I just couldn’t believe someone didn’t tap it in to start with,” Orton said. “But we fortunately got a chance to play the ball back in and Mac was there with the header.”
Central Mountain (12-6) was already playing from behind just 60 seconds into the game.
“It’s never easy to give up a goal early and to come back from it, to spot a team a goal,” Central Mountain coach Jeff Brinker said. “But you got 79 minutes, so the boys realized that and we had our chances and they had their chances and they got a couple more in than we did.”
The Little Lions dominated play from there, controlling possession and limiting Central Mountain’s opportunities offensively.
State College pushed its lead to 2-0 with 23:37 left in the first half.
Paul McDermott chipped a perfect pass ahead to set up the goal by Moerschbacher, who dribbled down the field and easily pushed the ball into the back of the net.
The Little Lions maintained control and their two-goal lead for the first 20 minutes of the second half.
The Wildcats then started to generate some pressure. State College goalkeeper Terrance Saylor, who finished with five saves, saved a header off a corner and reached out to cover up the loose ball before Hook could make a late play at the net. Minutes later, Central Mountain finally got on the board when Chandler Condo finished along the right side off a pass from Thomas Eaton.
With 14:37 to play, the Little Lions suddenly led just 2-1.
But they kept attacking, searching for another score.
“When you’re up and your heads started to get a little big and then they get a quick goal back, you can’t let that change the flow of the game,” Moerschbacher said. “You just have to keep playing and do what you’ve been doing the whole game and obviously, we won 3-1, so we did a good job of that.”
Moerschbacher provided the goal that allowed the Little Lions to breathe easy in the final three-plus minutes.
State College now turns its focus to the district title game.
And the Little Lions are playing with confidence as they’re unbeaten in their last eight games.
“I think we’ve just come together as a team finally,” Moerschbacher said. “At the beginning of the year, we were a little slow getting used to each other, but once we got used to each other, everything started to come together and we’re on a winning streak now.”