Esposito scores four, Raiders fall in semis
DUBOIS — Halloween turned out to be a scary night for the Brookville Raiders as they fell 5-1 to the Brockway Rovers in the Distrist IX Class A soccer semi-finals.
With the loss, the Raiders season ended on a disappointing note, but Brookville head coach Dan Smith said he was pleased with how the team played throughout the playoffs.
"We would've liked to have gone a little further up the bracket, but we're happy," Smith said. "We're proud of the boys, with the effort they put up through the bracket. They gave it a nice run."
Rovers' star Phil Esposito led the offensive threat for Brockway with four goals, which proved to be enough for a win.
"Phil just had himself a really good game there," Smith said. "He is very prejudice to the left foot, and we knew that. I don't know if we paid as much attention to that as we could've. He still got a lot of shots, but he's a good player; (he) turns nice with it."
The Raiders came out strong in the first half and scored the first goal of the game during the seventh minute of play.
The goal was a picture-perfect play as Brett Smith took a corner kick and hit it to the middle of the box. Seth Connor jumped up, heading the ball in for the Raiders.
"It was just like you draw it up there," coach Smith said. "Nice ball in from Brett on the corner, and Seth got in to finish that one with some nice space. We felt like our set pieces would be a lot of what we were hoping to get us into the game."
Smith said how important it was to score the first goal, but he also noted that he didn't want the team to get ahead of itself.
"We definitely wanted that first one," Smith said. "The first one is really important to have, but we also realized that early in the game, we knew there was going to be a lot going on between then and the end of the game."
The Rovers quickly tied it in the 11th minute when Esposito scored his first of the night just inside the right corner of the net.
Despite a 1-1 first half, the Rovers came out exceptionally strong in the second, scoring three goals in a span of less than three minutes.
Six minutes into the second half, Brockway's Kent Sabatose scored off a corner kick, and from there, the momentum was all in Brockway's favor.
Esposito scored two goals within a minute to put the Rovers up 4-1.
"It's just a fickle affair when one can turn into three just like that," Smith said. "You hang your head for a second against a team like this, and they're going to pick up on that and have it."
The Raiders stayed in the game, earning some opportunities for themselves, but they just could not find the back of the net.
Brookville's best opportunity during the second half came from Connor as he took a 20-yard direct kick, which hit the crossbar.
Smith said those missed chances were a big downfall for the Raiders.
"It's going to be (difficult) no matter what at this level; there's no easy ones left," Smith said. "So a little bit of missed opportunity, a little bit of misfortune off of a crossbar (hurts)."
The Raiders also struggled with open space chances Monday night as the Rovers were all over Brookville.
"We had a couple of open opportunities there," Smith said. "They're just going to have to go in on a night like this against a team like that in order to get yourself back in it, and it didn't work out for us."
Esposito added some insurance for the Rovers, scoring his fourth goal of the night with just three-and-a-half minutes remaining on the clock. The five goals proved to be more than Brockway needed to secure its place in the District IX Class A Championship.
Smith was noticeably disappointed after the game, but he remained positive, saying how proud he was of the Raiders' season as a whole. The Raiders, who struggled offensively through the beginning of the season, really picked it up during the latter half of the season.
The Raiders scored 28 goals in the final five games of the regular season, while only allowing four.
The Raiders also scored five-plus goals in six consecutive games, a feat they have not achieved since 2008.
"We're awfully proud of the boys," Smith said. "They came a long way this year; we had a lot of stuff that we sorted out along the way. Our second half of the season was a real nice ride. ... I think we could've put on a little stronger showing there at the end, but I'm awfully proud of the season they put in."