HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER: Indians stumble, but stay in title hunt with tie
LOWER BURRELL — Burrell had just stormed back from a two-goal deficit to keep Indiana at arm’s length and remain all alone in first place, but it was hard to tell after the game. The Buccaneers’ body language told a different story, and so did the Indians’.
Although Indiana saw a two-goal lead evaporate in the second half, the Indians were riding high after playing Burrell to a 3-3 tie in double overtime Tuesday night in a WPIAL Section 1-AA clash between the first- and second-place teams in the section.
“I think we’ll build on this,” Indiana’s 18th-year coach Todd Myers said. “We’ve strung together some good games in a row. And I think the guys will definitely look at this as a game that they played a very good team and played very well against. I don’t think our guys are hanging their heads. I think Burrell is hanging their heads.”
“For them, you could really tell afterwards they were disappointed,” Indiana junior Cole Rosenberger said, “considering that it was their senior night and it’s their home field and they’re in first place in the section. We just came in and we did our best. We played our hardest, and I thought we played really well. Obviously, it isn’t a loss for either team, but I think it’s more of a mental victory for us than it is for them.”
Despite their furious second-half comeback, the Buccaneers were smarting after the game, lamenting a missed chance to clinch the section title.
“It shows in the players’ emotions that they really wanted to win this game, especially being their senior night,” Burrell coach T.J. Trozzi said. “But the end result is we’re still alive to win the section title.”
Burrell needs to defeat heated rival Valley in the section finale Thursday to clinch its fourth section title in five seasons.
Indiana clinched a playoff berth with Tuesday’s result, but the Indians have bigger goals in mind.
After winning the section title last season to end Burrell’s three-year reign, the Indians wouldn’t mind another one.
According to WPIAL tiebreaker procedures, teams that finish tied for first place in any section “will not have the tie broken and each will be declared section champion.” That means if Indiana can beat Derry in its section finale Thursday, and fourth-place Valley upsets Burrell, the Bucs and Indians will share the section crown.
And if Mount Pleasant beats Greensburg Salem in its section finale, Mount Pleasant would join Indiana and Burrell in a three-way tie for the section title.
“I mean, look at this, I think they’re encouraged by this,” Myers said, pointing to his upbeat bunch. “This doesn’t knock us out of the section title. If we win, and Valley upsets Burrell, which is a good possibility because it’s a big rival, we could end up being section champs still. This isn’t discouraging. I think it’s more encouraging. Just looking at my guys, they don’t look like they’re down at all.”
Unfazed by Burrell’s senior night festivities and a subsequent 30-minute delay to start the game after an official failed to show up, Indiana came out on the offensive.
The Indians threatened Burrell’s goal often and early, and in the eighth minute, forward and a maestro with the ball, David Zimmerman, scored to give Indiana a 1-0 lead.
The chances kept coming for Indiana, and Cole Rosenberger converted one of them in the 29th minute, scoring as he was falling to the ground inside the goalie box to double the Indians’ lead to 2-0 with 11:17 to play in the first half.
Perhaps feeling a sense of urgency on senior night, the Bucs put heavy pressure on Indiana’s goal the final five minutes of the opening half.
Indiana goalkeeper Corey Denlinger momentarily the Bucs at bay with a sensational diving save with 2:30 to play in the half. Burrell forward Tom Spagnolo timed his run down the middle of the field perfectly, received a long pass in stride and outran two Indiana defenders, leaving him 1-on-1 with Denlinger.
Spagnolo took a shot at the far post, but Denlinger quickly got on the ground to knock it out bounds. Denlinger finished with 12 saves.
But with 1:07 to play in the half, Burrell broke through against Denlinger when the Bucs scored on a scramble in front of the goal to cut Indiana’s lead in half.
“I’m proud of the way my guys came out in the first half and the intensity they played with,” Myers said. “I think both teams played fantastic and with great intensity. Am I disappointed with a tie? Probably a little bit. But it was a great game. And we could have lost it. There was opportunities we could have lost it, too.
“That was probably the most intense game I’ve seen from start to finish. You don’t play 100 minutes of soccer with that kind of pace. The pace of that game was just brutal.”
The Indians started the second half with the same intensity, and Rosenberger scored his second goal on a header off a corner kick to restore Indiana’s two-goal lead just 10 minutes into the second half.
Burrell then turned it up a gear in the final 20 minutes of the game, and scored twice in a five-minute span to knot the game at 3.
“We came off (the field) at the end of regulation, and I basically talked to them about how they were playing, afraid,” Myers said. “They were playing scared. That last 10-15 minutes of regulation, our guys, they looked afraid. And I said, ‘Guys, it’s easy to beat a team that’s afraid.’ I don’t know what we’re afraid of because they’re just like us. I was real proud when we came out in the first overtime and our guys just totally changed their mentality and went at Burrell and made it a game. If we hadn’t changed, Burrell would have beaten us pretty easily.
“We just talked about playing afraid versus playing with confidence. And they couldn’t tell me why they were afraid, so I knew we were going to be OK. They got pumped up from that one. I guess they don’t like being called scared.”
Admittedly, the Indians were playing on their heels to close out the game.
“Definitely. I play center-mid and I was kind of sitting back a little too far,” Rosenberger said. “I should have been stepping up and pressuring because they were just driving up our middle, sliding balls in to Tom Spagnolo up front, and he had a couple great finishes and we just couldn’t do anything about it.”