DuBOIS — For the second in as many years, the Brockway and Seton LaSalle boys soccer teams played a thrilling one-goal game at DuBois High School in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
Unfortunately for Brockway, the Rovers found themselves on the wrong side of that one-goal difference this time around, as the WPIAL third-seeded Rebels came away with a 1-0 victory to hand the Rovers their first loss of the season and advance to the state quarterfinals.
A year ago in the same matchup, Rover Tino Inzana scored on a header with 1:59 to play to give Brockway a 3-2 victory — its first win in the state playoffs in 24 years. That goal sparked a run all the way to the state semifinals for the Rovers.
This time around, it was Seton LaSalle that came up with the magical play on a corner kick with 6:37 left in the first half.
Rebel Ethan Gardner took that corner kick from the left side and bent a shot that got over top everyone in the box and found the top, right corner of the net on its own to put Seton LaSalle up 1-0.
Gardner’s impressive shot proved to the difference in what was otherwise an evenly matched contest for the second straight year. Brockway finished with a 10-9 edge in shots in the game, with Rebel keeper Sam Reinhart stopping eight of those attempts.
Reinhart made six of those saves in the final 40 minutes, including a couple big ones early in the half to keep it a 1-0 game. In the end, Brockway was never able to crack Reinhart as Seton LaSalle held on for the victory to advance to the state quarterfinals.
Seton LaSalle will play WPIAL runner-up Greensburg Central Catholic, a 3-2 winner vs. D-10 champ Iroquois Tuesday evening.
“They put a lot of pressure on Zane (Puhala) and Hunter (Allenbaugh), and you try move those guys around to get then space, but they (rebels) did a good job tonight,” said Rovers coach Rich Esposito. “We had a little possession, but the farther you go (in season), the opportunities are cut down and you have to make the most of your chances.
“The wind was a factor tonight, and in that first half I don’t know if it helped that corner kick go in or not. We tried to play the win in the second half, and Zane came up with a couple good, long shots, but there keeper made some nice saves. I do think we tested him more in the second half than we did in the first half.
“The kids played great though, and our seniors have had a wonderful run with those guys. They have set the bar extremely high for the program, and the younger kids learned a lot from these seniors. They are leaving the program in good hands.
“We went through this last year with a 1-0 loss to North Catholic (in state semifinals). It hurts, but when you can come off the field and say you left it all out there and have no regrets, you can handle it a little better.
“Now we get busy for the offseason. We wish the seniors best of luck, and I thank my staff for all their hard work. In a couple weeks, we’ll be back at it for next year.”
Brockway (17-1) had the first scoring chance of the game, with Reinhart deflecting a shot by Rover senior Zane Puhala out of play for a corner kick.
Brockway freshman keeper Garet Park made the first of his three saves just past the 10-minute mark, while Rover senior Hunter Allenbaugh had a shot denied by Reinhart two minutes later.
The teams then traded scoring opportunities throughout the rest of the first half before Gardner put his team in top.
Reinhart was forced to make a diving save on a hardshot by freshman Marcus Bennett in the 15th minute, while Allenbaugh fired a shot off the side of the net after making a good run up the left side just past the 22-minute mark.
Park made another save just over minute later before Gardner ultimately found the net late in the half to send the teams to the break with the Rebels up 1-0.
Puhala nearly evened things just over a minute into the second half when he made a strong run into the Rebel box and blasted a shot that Reinhart made a diving save on.
Reinhartd also turned away a shot by Noah Bash in the fourth minute before having to make another diving save in the sixth minute on a direct kick by Bennett.
Seton LaSalle had its first scoring chance of the half in the ninth minute but had a direct kick go just wide.
The shots then slowed down for each side through the middle of the second half before Brockway made one late push in the 15 minutes.
Puhala had two prime scoring chances in the 67th and 68th minutes, but Reinhart was on the spot to ave both, deflecting the second attempt out of play for a corner kick with just over 12 minutes remaining. That shot proved to be the Rovers last real scoring chance in the night.
The game proved to be the final one for a highly decorated senior class that features Puhala, Allenbaugh, Inzana, Clayton Heckman and Jake Anderson.