MILL HALL, Pa. – The ball fell to Central Mountain’s freshman striker, Tommy Eaton, with four minutes remaining in a tightly fought early season Mountain League match-up last night. It was the first shot of the night taken inside the Mounties penalty area. And it was the decisive goal as the young Wildcat punched home the lonely chance amid a scramble of bodies.
It was the missing finishing touch for two teams locked in a stylistic death-match: Central Mountain’s impressive possession game against the Mounties’ dedicated and composed back eight.
On the night, the Wildcats imposed their style on the Mounties, but they could gain no advantage. The Cats took 10 shots, but all of them but one came from outside – mostly from far outside – the P-O penalty area. And while the Mounties only mustered three shots on goal, both teams managed to strike the crossbar once.
Despite the fact that the Cats’ keeper, Max Webb, made no saves, the Mounties did claim an advantage in corner kicks, 5-2, and had many Rory Delap-esque throw-ins from Taylor Golemboski, but nothing fell for the Mounties on a luckless, rainy night.
“Our shot chart tells an incredible story,” said Mounties’ head coach Shawn Inlow. “Despite Abe’s (Wildcats’ coach, Stauffer) boys dominating possession, they never got near our goal. I’ve never seen a high school squad play the kind of defense our boys did tonight.”
The Mounties weathered the storm of the Wildcats’ attack in the first 20 minutes when the Cats pressed hard and had their best chances from balls served in from distance.
“They threw the kitchen sink at us,” said Inlow, “But they could not solve us.”
In the second half, the Cats seemed to tire as their back line launched balls that the Mounties easily took possession of but could not take advantage of. The Mounties had no answers going forward and chose more often than not to send lone attackers toward the corners with little support. Senior midfielder Alex Boumerhi, the team’s scoring leader, seldom was able to work himself into useful shooting areas.
In the 76th minute, the Mounties were called for a foul near midfield and Cats’ senior defender Kyle Byrne launched a searching ball to the right of the Mounties’ goal. The ball caromed about with nobody gaining possession when Eaton pounced, saving overtime for another day for the exhausted combatants.
The Cats have been the top dogs in the Mountain League for years and Inlow’s Mounties have had three dandy bouts now in the last two seasons. In the opener of the 2010 season, the Cats beat the Mounties at Curtis Park 2-1 in the inaugural game of coach Inlow’s return. Later last fall, the Mounties held a 2-0 lead at Central Mountain but could not hold it as the Cats clawed their way back to tie 2-2 in a mesmerizing double overtime game. Now this.
“This is what it is about in the Mountain League,” said Inlow. “The Cats own this league and we’ve not been able to take it from them despite some delightful, if frustrating, games. Anyone who loves soccer should make an effort to see one of these games between these two teams. Nobody has to hang their heads when we lock horns. It’s always going to be something special.”
The Mounties get another match with the Wildcats on October 13th with a 7 p.m. kickoff at Philipsburg on the Mounties’ senior night. If recent history between these local rivals is any indication, it should be a memorable night of soccer.
The Mounties tradition includes naming a “Man of the Match” for each game. Last night’s stalwart defensive performance landed the honor for both of the Mounties’ junior center backs, Taylor Golemboski and Alex Gray.