Bring on the Owls: Punxsy advances past Clearfield to set up Bradford rematch up

BROCKWAY โ€” Thirty-four degress with a brisk breeze is the perfect football weather.

But when it comes to a good, old-fashioned futbol game, it's less than ideal.

Regardless of the conditions in Brockway, the boys' soccer team walked away from its first-round playoff match against Clearfield as the 4-1 winner.

"This was cold, but I'll take it," head coach Phil Shenkle said. "I was afraid it was going to be wet and gross. This was perfect."

Taking advantage of the chilly conditions, which the players weren't used to playing in, the Chucks struck early on to set the tone while everyone still had their lungs.

"It's been a pretty mild season overall. We've had some great weather," Shenkle said. "You know, it was cold, but the one thing I'm proud of these guys for is that they said they weren't going to focus on anything except the game."

Senior Tanner Evans took the ball to the far corner, before pivoting back, square to the goal.

Evans delivered a perfect cross pass, which was sent in by senior Kevin Hughes.

Just a few minutes later, Evans scored from just outside the box to give the Chucks an early 2-0 lead.

"All night, there were great looks by our guys," Shenkle said. "They did great. They were looking for each other all night, that was real nice."

With the conditions as they were, Shenkle seemed to be rotating in his bench players quicker than he has in the past.

The coach, however, said the weather didn't play a part in that decision.

"No, it wasn't about the weather. We are at a point now where we know what our lineup is, and if the guy needs subbed, I know who I'm putting in," Shenkle said. "The guys know if they need a breather to come off, and then, they'll go right back in. They've learned to trust me on that."

In the second half of the game, the Chucks lead remained 2-0.

That was, however, until Clearfield was rewarded a penalty kick โ€” for which Shenkle disagreed with the call โ€” to pull within one goal at 2-1.

Just as Clearfield had the momentum, the game was stopped for just under 30 minutes for an injury delay.

Evan Martin of Punxsy collided with Aaron Angstadt of Clearfield, forcing the Bison forward to be carted off the field.

With the injury and the weather in the back of their minds, it's always hard to get back to action after a delay like that.

"It's very difficult. It's very difficult. I've played in games like that where there are injuries, and it adds to it when it's cold," Shenkle. "Not only do you have that injury in your head, where you
realize you aren't invincible, but you have the long layoff with the
cold. It's tough, and it's hard, but I think the guys did a great job
getting back to it."

The Chucks were focused, and tacked on two late goals, as Josh Godo scored a goal, which was assisted by Hughes and Brycen Lunger, and Evans tallied his second of the game.

"When you see the passing back and forth, you know that guys are looking for you, you'll keep running," Shenkle said. "You never know when it could be your number, so the guys just keep on moving. They played very unselfish ball."

While the offense will get the attention for putting up the four goals, it was the defense that played exceptionally throughout.

In fact, when Shenkle heard that his team only allowed eight shots, he said, "That's it? Really?"

The Chucks were able to force the Bison wide on the field, as Ryan Presloid, Tyler Baer and company controlled the middle.

"Everyone was obviously playing great for us. Presloid and Baer are rocks in the middle. They were doing great stuff," Shenkle said. "When one isn't there, the other one is. It's like they are in each others' heads. They do a great job."

For the entire season, Shenkle has said that his team is starting to gel, but he wasn't sure if they were there yet.

Shenkle said he'd know when they showed up at the game if they were ready.

Well, coach?

"They were there. It was a very well-played game against a very good Clearfield team," Shenkle said. "For us to go out there and play that well, strong and focused says a lot. They were extremely focused this game, and I was very proud of them."

The Chucks will return to Brockway on Monday, as they'll square off
against the No. 1 seeded Bradford Owls.
This will mark the fourth straight year the two teams will face each other in the District IX final.