Same story line, but a different ending
BROCKWAY — In a District IX boys' soccer rematch of last year's championship game between the Punxsy Chucks and the Bradford Owls, the script looked very similar to 2010 with Punxsy scoring a first-half goal and Bradford answering with a second-half goal to send the game into overtime. This year, though, the Chucks were the ones who earned the overtime winner and took home the D-IX Championship trophy with a 2-1 win Wednesday night in Brockway.
"It still feels like a dream, to be quite frank," Punxsy head coach Phil Shenkle said after the game, referring to what it meant to win the title as a team. "I'm still processing it all, but just to see these guys raise that pointer finger and go home knowing we left that legacy... that's what these guys have done."
Shenkle also noted that the players who have gone before this year's team played a huge part in this title, too.
"The people that played before these guys helped build this program," he said. "The players all along got us to this point. But to be able to put that banner up on the wall and come back in 10 years and say, 'I was a part of that,' these guys started that tonight."
The star of the night for Punxsy, especially on the stat sheet, was senior striker Tyler Presloid, who scored both the team's goals and added numerous other scoring opportunities. It was Presloid's goal in the eighth minute of the overtime period that clinched the D-IX title for the Chucks.
Off the stat sheet, though, it was a full-team effort that brought home the title for Punxsy, with stellar defense, good ball movement by all forwards and mid-fielders and some key saves by keeper Dan Triponey when the Chucks needed them most.
"The nice thing to see tonight was that any guy we put on that field was giving anything he had to the point of exhaustion," Shenkle said. "We'd take them off, and they'd go right back out there. This was exactly the game we were looking for."
It was a game of two halves, and Punxsy's offense owned the first half, earning scoring chance after scoring chance on Bradford keeper Ty Riley.
Riley's only blemish in the half was Presloid's first golden opportunity, and he took advantage of it, sliding feet-first to beat Riley to the ball and sneaking it into the goal to give Punxsy a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.
Shenkle was glad his team came out with the intensity it did.
"Our intensity and confidence level were good," he said. "We knew Bradford was a good team coming in, but it's not a team we thought we had to back down from. In our heads as coaches, that was our big thing. If we went in and got after them, we knew we'd be in good shape."
After Punxsy's goal, it was Bradford's intensity that increased, and scoring chances were frequent over the next 10 minutes. But the Chucks' defense proved good enough to hold them off for the rest of the first half.
Bradford forwards Colton Bly and Cody Bly were both attacking the Chucks' end, but Punxsy defender Quinton Weber cleared one great opportunity, and Triponey did his part to keep the Owls off the scoreboard.
Punxsy had two opportunities to push the lead to two goals in the 26th minute when Presloid fired a free kick on net, and Riley forced it over the crossbar. On the ensuing corner kick, Riley again denied the Chucks to keep the deficit at one goal.
In the 31st minute, another free kick from the same distance bounced loudly off the left goal post, and Punxsy was still ahead by just one.
Bradford earned another great opportunity in the 37th minute when Roger Jordan struck one for the top corner, but Triponey was quick enough to tip it high over the bar.
Last year, Punxsy led 1-0 in the D-IX championship game, and Bradford made solid adjustments at halftime. This year was no different, Shenkle said.
"They came out in the second half and made the exact same adjustments they made last year. We knew we had seen it already, but they were executing well," he said.
Thanks in large part to their adjustments, Bradford owned the majority of the scoring opportunities in the second half, and Punxsy's defense had to answer the call.
In the 28th minute, Bradford cashed in on the opportunities, tying the game on a goal by Colton Bly.
"What they did is they stretched us out," Shenkle said. "They moved the ball left to right and tried to wear us out. The big difference this year was we conditioned like never before, because last year, that's what beat us, and we knew it couldn't this year. And it almost did. They stretched us out and played well, but we were conditioned for it physically and mentally."
Punxsy also had a share of scoring opportunities in the half, and even though Bradford dominated possession time, Punxsy was able to run with them and keep the game tied. Punxsy's long clears led to a number of break chances for Presloid, but Riley made some key saves on his end, too.
It wasn't until the overtime period that Presloid was able to cash in on what would be the final scoring opportunity of the game.
One other factor played a determining role, according to Shenkle.
His squad had a taste of playing in the championship game last year, but he said they really wanted to be champs this year.
"The guys wanted it," he said. "A little bit of want-to can change a lot of things."
The Chucks hope they can keep riding the high of the want-to as they head into states, beginning Tuesday at a time and location yet to be determined. Their opponent is still undetermined, as well.