By Frank Foreman
Saegertown just couldn’t catch a break Monday.
From drilling the crossbar minutes into the game to a pair of controversial calls, it appeared early on that a home victory over Bradford just wasn’t going to be in the cards.
Despite everything seemingly going against them, the Panthers hung tough and made a late push, but it wasn’t enough as the Owls (12-3-1) held on to earn a 4-3 win.
The issues in question came early in the contest.
Though there was no issue when Lucas Smith drilled a shot just five minutes into the game off the crossbar, the questionable calls started kicking in moments later.
A flurry of shots at the 10-minute mark in front of Saegertown keeper Zack Coon led to the ball getting behind the junior, where he made a diving attempt to stop the ball from crossing the goal line. Apparently it wasn’t enough, as a goal was awarded, and Bradford had an early 1-0 lead.
While that first goal was a disappointing one for the Panthers, it would be a no-call goal five minutes later that really put Saegertown up against it.
A long ball was settled by Saegertown’s Matt Schenberg at the top of the box, where the Bradford keeper came out to make a play on the ball. Schenberg, and the ball, got behind the keeper, when Schenberg kicked it into the front left corner of the net, tucking the ball inside the post. Bradford’s keeper made a diving attempt to get the ball and pulled it back in front of the goal line. No goal was awarded.
Simply put, it was game-changing.
“We said (at halftime) that Bradford’s goal was probably in by an inch, and ours was probably out by an inch,” Saegertown head coach Ryan Schenck said. “It’s one of those things that could have gone either way, and it could have made a huge difference in how the game plays out.”
For Schenberg, who was awarded a goal later in the match, saw the no-goal first-hand.
“I thought it was a goal,” Schenberg said. “But the refs are the ones that call it.”
Saegertown (9-6-1) finally bounced back from the no-call and scored later in the first half when Peter Mattocks took a give-and-go from Schenberg and scored to tie the game at 1-1. The Owls responded quickly when Cody Bly, clearly the Owls’ top player, drilled a shot from distance past Coon to make it 2-1.
Needing a late spark before halftime, Mattocks delivered, slicing between two defenders through the box and scoring to tie the game at 2-2 late in the first half, where it would stand heading into the break.
“We moved the ball well and created plenty of shot opportunities,” Schenck said.
It didn’t take long for the Owls to retake the lead in the second half, when Bly scored a highlight goal from the side of the net, slipping a shot past Coon in the early stages of the second half to make it 3-2 in favor of Bradford.
Bly factored in on Bradford’s next goal, making a perfect pass to Ben Jordan who was left alone in front of the net for the score, putting the Owls up by two goals.
“I think when Bradford had the ball (in the second half), they made better decisions on where to play it,” Schenck said. “They calmed themselves down, didn’t rush it as much, and they didn’t play it into dangerous spaces.”
With Bradford on the verge of simply running out the clock and leaving Saegertown with a two-goal victory, Schenberg broke down the field following a Bradford corner kick and took off on a breakaway, where he scored with ease to make it 4-3, and giving life to the Panthers with five minutes left in the game.
Saegertown never threatened again, however, allowing Bradford to escape with the win.
The Owls out-shot Saeger-town in the second half 12-4, but the Panthers were the better team in the first half.
A loss never feels good, but dropping a close match against a high-quality team in Bradford with a goal going unregistered, it’s not hard for Schenberg to focus on moving on.
“We have good players, we just need to finish our chances,” Schenberg said. “This time, we didn’t.”
The loss severly hurt Saegertown’s playoff hopes in 2013. District 10 has stated that just six teams will represent the district in the Class AA playoffs, though that number is subject to change. There is a log jam between multiple schools for one of the potential final spots in the postseason, with the Panthers likely finding themselves on the outside looking in.