CURTIS PARK – A Greg Kojadinovich wonder strike and a Dustin Fisch left-cheek-sneak two minutes later gave the Philipsburg-Osceola soccer Mounties a 2-0 halftime lead on the way to a 2-1 win Monday as they began to solve for teams that present a good possession game.
The Mounties’ record rose to 6-2 with their first win in the young season against a Mountain League, Nittany Division team, where the competition generally specializes in good midfield play and keeping possession of the ball.
The Mounties’ two losses this season have come against Nittany Division AAA schools Central Mountain and Mifflin County. Both losses were by only one goal, but Central Mountain won the possession battle for the entire game on the way to a 1-0 win and Mifflin County last Wednesday dominated possession in the first half before the Mounties answered in the second half of a 2-1 loss.
The first 20 minutes at Curtis Park looked like more of the same as Juniata coach Clint Brackbill’s Indians forced its style of play on the Mounties, keeping possession in the Mounties end. But they found no reward on the end of balls in that might have threatened.
“We’ve been trying to work through this,” said Mounties coach Tom Petro. “We actually came out today in uncustomary positions hoping to force a little more attack onto Clint’s team. But seeing as our idea wasn’t working, we casually slipped back into our standard line-up and then the whole game changed.”
For the ensuing 50 minutes, it was MTV; all Mounties all day as the Indians mustered nothing on the P-O goal. By late in the half, the Mounties were presenting real problems on air balls into the Indian box.
The first goal, oddly, resulted from a Mountie goal kick 104 yards away from the Indian goal. P-O sophomore defense-man Nick Boumerhi’s long range technique is always dangerous, but this was something new again. Kicking into a decent first-half headwind that was lofting his kicks higher, if shorter than usual, Boumerhi lofted one that found a huge bounce over Indian defenders. Mountie junior midfielder Taylor Golemboski headed the ball further up-field into the Juniata penalty area where Mountie senior striker Kojadinovich pounced.
“KoJo was about 18 yards to the right of the near post and about 12 yards from the end line,” said Petro. “He hits a right footed side-volley under pressure and with the keeper sliding to the near post and he just mashed that into the left side back netting. Their keeper never even moved on the shot. A magic bullet.”
Fast forward two minutes to Mountie senior defense-man Dustin Fisch’s goal, which did not have the classic appeal of the Kojadinovich missile. Nick Boumerhi was again the antagonist as the free kick specialist lined up one of his seven corner kicks on the day. Fisch got on the end of it in the mixer and somehow bundled the ball into the net from point blank range.
“We think the ball hit Dustin’s rear end,” mused Petro. “The boy insists that he hit it with his shoulder on purpose and that could be the case. But we really feel Fisch kind of backed into his good fortune. It was a beautiful goal for anyone in blue and white.”
After the break, the Mounties again asserted themselves and owned the following 30 minutes. The game became more hectic as time ran down and the Juniata rear guard resorted to direct play. In the 77th minute, Juniata sophomore Jose Lopez struck a free kick from the left of the Mountie penalty area, taking advantage of a rag-tag wall formation, and got the ball to dribble just inside the P-O back post as Mountie keeper Jay Prentice clutched at the ball. Petro decried the uncharacteristically shabby Mountie tactics on the play.
“That wall was terrible. That is the kind of simple tactical mistake that is going to cost us a big game,” said Petro. “Practice tomorrow will be all about setting walls and defending free kicks like that. That will never happen again.”
The Mounties, who were beaten last season 3-0 and in 2009 8-0 by Juniata, out-shot the Indians 16 to 5 on the day. P-O had the edge in corners, seven to three. Keeper Jay Prentice needed only two saves and Indian keeper Garrick Paden saved six. Juniata won the junior varsity game 3-1, with the only Mountie goal coming from a 40 yard screamer of a free kick from sophomore defense-man Nate Araway that cleanly beat the Juniata keeper.
Juniata falls to 5-2 and next travels to East Juniata for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Wednesday. P-O raises its record to 6-2 and travels Wednesday to Hollidaysburg for a 4 p.m. kickoff.
IT IS MOUNTIE TRADITION to name a “Man of the Match.” Junior defender Alex Gray is honored today for both his composed effort in defense and his tenacious efforts in the attack.