DUBOIS — Things could not have started any better for the Brookville Raiders Thursday night during the District IX Class A boys' championship game.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the game didn't end at halftime.
Brookville jumped out to an early 1-0 lead and held it into the second half before Northern Potter scored two second-half goals to win its second-straight District IX title in DuBois.
The loss leaves Brookville with a bitter taste, as the No. 7-seeded Raiders impressively reached the finals, only to surrender two late goals and miss out on their second title in three years.
Despite the loss, the Raiders still have soccer left to play, as District IX will send two teams to the state tournament, with Brookville set to square off with District V champions North Star next Tuesday at a time and venue to be determined.
That certainly doesn't ease the pain for head coach Dan Smith.
"We'll just take that one and make a run at it. For us, it kind of does feel like the season is over a bit," Smith said. "But we'll jump in and play that state game. It could be a nice end to the run. Winning a state bracket game is something we've never done."
It was a somber tone surrounding the Raiders sideline once the game came to an end, as Brookville went from the high of holding a 1-0 lead for such a long span in the contest to watching the Panthers celebrate a championship.
It was hard to watch, but for Smith, there's no taking away the accomplishments of his team.
"It's hard to be disappointed," Smith said. "We had a great season turned in by our guys with a short roster. We lost guys in preseason, and we sat out the potential MVP of the whole league. We worked our way through the bracket and gave the defending champs all they wanted. I'm proud of the effort."
Just over two minutes into the game, Seth Connor made a run that started along the sideline about 35 yards out and pushed his possession near the box. From there, Connor hit a hard, low ball to the opposite side of the field where Jarren Ross was standing.
Ross knocked home the open shot, and Brookville had a quick 1-0 lead.
"We were glad to have it, and to be honest, I was surprised we hung on to it that long," Smith said. "We were super glad to get that first one. It was a textbook finish with Seth driving deep and Jarren finishing it off nice. It was a sigh of relief."
Sitting on a one-goal lead, the turning point in the game came 10 minutes into the second half.
After a flurry of activity inside of Northern Potter's box, a loose ball found the foot of Brookville's Dakoda Kellenberger. With a lot of net to work with and just the keeper in front of him, Kellenberger drove the ball directly into the keeper's chest, leaving what appeared to be a huge goal on the field.
"We finish that one off and we're up two," Smith said. "We got our two against Brockway, and we made adjustments, and we were hard to crack. I think we could have been in a better position. A two-goal lead would have been hard to come back on."
With the exception of a few chances for Brookville, including Kellenberger's shot, Northern Potter appeared to outplay the Raiders for the better part of the game.
The relentless pressure, due to the fact that the Panthers were down a goal, finally paid off when sweeper Jared McCutcheon knocked home a loose ball following a corner kick to tie the game midway through the second half.
All of a sudden, momentum was in full swing for the Panthers, and Northern Potter took advantage 10 minutes later when A.J. Schweigert drilled a ball from inside the box off a perfect setup by Andrew Morgan to give them the lead, and eventually, the championship.
"There were no glaring defects. They are going to get their chances," Smith said of Northern Potter. "We kept them marked up pretty well. They made some nice opportunities of what they had."
The story of the game were those missed opportunities, as the Raiders made some noise in the closing minutes to find the equalizer, but to no such luck. In the end, Northern Potter was just a little bit better, and that's all that matters come playoff time.
"Their keeper made some real nice saves late," Smith said. "We had some fine opportunities, and when you get to this level, you can't leave those laying. We did."