PUNXSUTAWNEY — In a rare night game at Jack LaMarca Stadium in Punxsutawney, the Punxsy boys' soccer team defeated Redbank Valley 7-0 Thursday evening, breaking Redbank's three-game winning streak over the Chucks.
"It was just a good team effort," Punxsy head coach Phil Shenkle said after the game. "We had multiple guys moving to the ball. Our skill level is higher than it's been in a while, but we've been lacking the hustle and intensity of the teams from the past few years. So, we've been talking to the players, saying, 'Yes, we're better dribblers and passers, but we're not bringing it.'
"But tonight, we brought some intensity. Every time you looked up, there would be there or four white jerseys swarming to the ball."
Shenkle pointed out that the intensity actually brought more adrenaline and energy to the team. Although his players were expending more energy, the Chucks were eager to get back on the field when they were taken out for substitutes.
"The guys realized it was nice, because they got a taste of what it's like to play fast," Shenkle said. "DuBois came in and mopped us up with speed and aggressiveness, but it's nice to get a taste of playing with adrenaline. Guys would come off after playing hard for 20 minutes and be asking to go back out. It was nice to see them put that together tonight."
Punxsy jumped on Redbank Valley early, possessing the ball well and earning several scoring opportunities — including one in the second minute when Ty Zimmerman launched a shot on goal that was deflected away by a Redbank defender — but the Chucks were unable to put one behind the keeper for the first 15 minutes.
"I'm all right with that, though," Shenkle said. "I mean, as long as we keep after them and keep our defense after them to shrink the field, that's all right.
"I love to have at least 10 guys in their half of the field, because if you keep pounding on the goal, you're going to get your chances."
Shenkle said part of the strategy in soccer is to figure out the other team's strengths and weaknesses and then try to exploit them as the game develops.
"It's a matter of figuring out what they're good at," he said. "This keeper was good and quick on the ground, so we had to try to get it in the air. I'm happy to see the chances coming, because that means there's more to come."
Punxsy's hard work finally paid off in the 15th minute of the first half when Tanner Evans buried one in the back of the net.
Four minutes later, Punxsy had another great opportunity stopped when Kevin Hughes made a perfect throw in, leading Trevor Peace down the sideline. Peace was tripped up, and Punxsy was awarded a free kick.
Tyler Presloid threaded the needle on the kick, but the Redbank keeper came up with a big save to hold the lead to one goal.
Five minutes later, Punxsy opened the floodgates.
Evans struck again for Punxsy's second goal in the 24th minute, assisted by Peace, who led him perfectly with a crossing pass.
Presloid struck next for Punxsy, burying one in the 30th minute to give Punxsy a 3-0 lead and striking again for his second goal just two minutes later.
Zimmerman gave Punxsy a 5-0 lead before the half ended deflecting a shot on goal by Ryan Young wide of the keeper.
In the second half, Punxsy struck twice early, but the last 30 minutes went scoreless.
First, Zimmerman delivered on a header from a perfectly-placed corner kick by Evans to push the lead to six.
Two minutes later, Evans drove the net again but was taken down, and Hughes caught up to the ball and put it in the net for Punxsy's final score.
Shenkle liked what he saw from his team from start to finish.
"To be able to possess with speed and aggression was nice," he said. "I think we were struggling to figure that out: How to posses it with speed and still maintain poise. I still think we have a long way to go. We can get a lot better, but it was nice to see. Now, we just need to make it a habit."
Punxsy's next challenge comes on the road Saturday against St. Marys. Punxsy has yet to play the Dutchmen this year, but has met them in the district semi-final the past two years and knows what to expect.
"We've split with them, one for them and one for us," Shenkle said. "So, we know it's going to be a good game."