Chucks primed for first-ever playoff victory
BROCKWAY – Two boys’ soccer squads that were destined to meet again will face off with a District IX Class AA Final berth on the line for the second-straight season at 7 p.m. tonight in Brockway.
The Punxsy Chucks (14-3-1), who were eliminated by St. Marys in last year’s playoffs in a shootout, enter tonight’s game coming off their best regular season in school history. The St. Marys Flying Dutchmen (13-3-2) have just as impressive of a 2010 resume, and they’re in search of advancing to yet another district championship game.
The winner of tonight’s game will face top-seeded Bradford for the district crown at a time, date and venue to be determined.
It took more than 100 minutes and two days for last year’s district semifinal between the two squads to be resolved, and in the only meeting between the two teams this season, the end result was a 2-2 tie.
Knowing how closely-matched the Chucks and Dutchmen have been over the last two seasons, Punxsy head coach Phil Shenkle isn’t surprised at all that the two schools will once again meet in the playoffs.
“I think it's just meant to be. We love playing them,” Shenkle said. “It’s a very quality program with very quality kids. You look forward to games like these, because they have a different feel to them.”
The Chucks played in their first playoff game and finished with their first-ever winning season last year. This season, they’ve stepped it up a notch by going undefeated at home, beating rival DuBois for the first time ever and securing one of the best overall records in the whole district.
Now, riding an eight-game winning streak, the Chucks have nothing more on their minds than winning their first playoff game.
“It makes every other ‘first’ look insignificant,” said Shenkle, citing a possible playoff win tonight. “If we can get that playoff win and go on and get that district title, that’s all we're thinking about. That's on the forefront of everybody’s mind.”
Punxsy already has experience this season on Brockway’s turf — it beat the Rovers Sept. 18 — and after not playing since last Monday, the Chucks are set to return to the field with that winning streak in tow.
“We're just excited to be in the playoffs with some confidence going into the playoffs,” Shenkle said. “The guys are tired of practicing and ready to play.”
Adding to that confidence is the fact that Punxsy led the Dutch Sept. 25, 2-0, before blowing that advantage and settling for a tie.
For as well as the defense has played this season — it has allowed more than two goals just once during the current eight-game winning streak — gaining another early lead against the Dutch will be a large confidence booster.
But even if the Chucks do gain an early advantage, they’ll have to keep in mind that St. Marys never quits, and that a letdown could be devastating at this point of the season.
“If you get up two goals, you can’t let down. If you get up three, then make it four,” Shenkle said. “St. Marys reminds me of a Brookville team — they keep coming.”
Led by one of the best players in the district – junior forward Tyler Presloid — and forward Kody Young, the Chucks have a one-two scoring punch that can find the back of the net often.
With junior Quinton Weber at sweeper and junior Daniel Triponey in goal along with a quality defense that complements those two, the Chucks are also solid in the backfield.
Because of this, as Shenkle has said all year, tonight’s game will come down to the play of Punxsy’s midfielders, considering all the talent that the Dutch have.
“We have to control the midfield. If we can be in an attacking mode as a team, then I feel very good about our chances,” Shenkle said. “We have to be constantly attacking the ball. As soon as we are sitting back and letting them bring it to us, I’ll start getting nervous.”
There are so many similarities between Punxsy and St. Marys — both have familiar strategies and playing styles. Even the past few summers, both the Chucks and Dutch have brought in the Irish Soccer Academy out of Dublin, Ireland, for an instructional camp.
Due to knowing each other so well by simply looking in the mirror, tonight’s game may not come down to talent and ability, but instead, heart and determination.
“It's definitely not a game that I take lightly,” Shenkle said. “It really is going to come down to who wants it more.”