PHILIPSBURG – On a night when the Philipsburg-Osceola soccer Mounties honored their four seniors, two of those seniors combined to score the winning goal while the other two constantly harried the Central Mountain defenders, breaking the Wildcats’ possession game.
Mountie senior captain Alex Boumerhi got control of the ball in the center circle in the 53rd minute amid a trio of Wildcat midfielders. Boumerhi left them in his wake as he charged forward on an impassioned, powerful run at the visitors’ center backs. Boumerhi split the center halves, surging at Central Mountain junior goal keeper, Cole Hanley, drawing Hanley to him on the break-away before sending a delicate diagonal ball to P-O senior striker Antonino Turrigiano.
Turrigiano, who had motored to be in support, was gifted an open look from the right corner of the six yard line and powered home a sure instep drive with the keeper hopelessly caught out. The Mountie bench and a decent crowd at Memorial Stadium erupted. It was the breaking point in a tense game and the ending of a long Mountie winless streak to the Wildcats.
P-O coach Tom Petro surmised that it might have been the first time the Mounties have beaten Central Mountain in possibly 15 years, dating back to a double-overtime semi-final victory in the 1996 PIAA D6 AAA playoffs.
“I’m not sure if this is right,” said a giddy Petro, “But the last time we beat Abe’s (Central Mountain coach, Stauffer) team was a month or two after our freshman holding midfielder, Wyatt (Inlow), was born.”
The other big difference between Thursday night’s game and the Mounties’ 1-0 loss September 8 at Central Mountain was the implementation of two other seniors, Dustin Fisch and Greg Kojadinovich in the role of striker. Kojadinovich, who also plays Mountie football, did not make the trip to Central Mountain in September and Fisch was starting at right back at the time. This left Turrigiano without support up top and led to a lopsided advantage in possession by the Cats.
“We added a dose of speed and aggression to the front line,” said Petro. “And we shrunk the field on them. Both conspired against their possession game.”
The Wildcats play home games in a magnificent field turf facility where the playing surface measures 120 by 75 yards. Playing on a muddy 100 by 50 yard football field seemed to cramp the Wildcats’ style with many passes running out of bounds. And as Fisch and Kojadinovich threatened to nip the ball off the Cats’ back line, Mountie midfielders took possession more and more often higher up the pitch.
Central Mountain appeared to be favoring a direct style of play early on, taking the opening kickoff and drilling a shot that missed the Mountie goal. But after 20 minutes of such direct play, the Mounties first blunted the Cats thrusts, then turned them back on them.
Around the 25 minute mark, after another in a series of long throw-ins by Mountie center half Taylor Golemboski, Turrigiano nearly broke the ice with a deft chip of Hanley from close range. The ball seemed destined for the net, but the Wildcat keeper got a hand on it, splaying the ball tantalizingly across the goal mouth only to be cleared away. And for the rest of the half and much of the second half, the plentiful P-O set pieces did not pay off.
“You would have thought with the wet conditions and the minimum size field that there would have been more quality chances on goal,” said Petro. “But then again, we are a powerful defensive team, and even in our loss at their house, we allowed almost nothing the entire game.”
The Mounties out-shot the Wildcats 16 to 9 on the night. The corner kick battle went the home side’s way as well: 7-2. Mountie keeper Jay Prentice was called on for four saves on the night to Cole Hanley’s seven.
The Wildcats’ record has dropped to 10-4-1 and they host Huntingdon Saturday afternoon.
The win drives the Mounties’ record to 10-2-1 and was a key game in the Mountain League standings and the District 6 AA seedings. The Mounties finish their regular season with games Saturday in Punxsutawney and then next Tuesday and Thursday respectively at Clearfield and Huntingdon. The later two are Allegheny Division games and the Mounties can probably cinch a berth in the Mountain League title game by winning at least one of the games.
“We intend to be in the Mountain League title game next Saturday,” said Petro. “We’re taking nothing for granted here and we intend to run the table and head into the D6 playoffs with a high seed and a head of steam. This team is capable of big things.”
It is Mountie Tradition to name a “Man of the Match” in each game. Today, the honor is shared between senior midfielder Alex Boumerhi and senior striker Antonino Turrigiano for combining on the game winning goal.