By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT -- Mifflinburg's Clair Ferguson knew that with his recent hamstring injury, he wouldn't be able to maneuver quickly around his defender. All he could do was stick with him and hope he could get a shot off in time.
So with an Athens defender and goalie right in front of him on a few yards from the goal, Ferguson did all he could and hit underneath the ball to get it some loft, right up over the Athens goalie as he slid out.
Ferguson's shot snuck in to the top right corner of the goal. The senior midfielder quickly turned around yelling in excitement and was engulfed by his fellow teammates thanks to his game-winning goal in double overtime of the first round of the District 4 Class AA boys soccer tournament on Tuesday at Lancers Community Stadium in Loyalsock.
"A lot of guys wouldn't have kept their composure on that (shot)," Mifflinburg coach Dan Gehers said. "(He) stuck with the ball, kept his composure and stuck with it. He's important to us."
Ferguson's game-winning shot was only the second shot on goal that Mifflinburg had through nearly 105 minutes of play. The Wildcats had just one shot on goal in the first two halves.
Defensively, neither team gave up easy looks. Both Athens and Mifflinburg had six total shots in the first half. After that, they combined for just eight the remainder of the game.
"Our coach really harps on us making sure we make defensive stops because that's what will win us the game," Ferguson said. "And our defense is really young, I give them a lot of credit; this was a huge game and they did everything they needed to win it for us."
Both teams had chances to put the game away, especially Mifflinburg. Wildcats senior forward Logan Taylor missed the net three separate times in the first half, twice just left and once just right, which could have put Mifflinburg up 3-0 going into the half.
With 18 minutes to play in the second half, Athens' Alex Cuno dribbled the ball down the left side of the field and from roughly eight yards out, fired a shot at the goal with a nice look, but didn't quite get the right aim on it and saw it sail to the left of the goal.
Athens then had a chance to win it in the first overtime period when senior Nick Pane took a shot from about 18 yards out to the dead center of the goal, only to see Mifflinburg goalie Nick Bachorski make the key save to prevent the loss.
"If it wasn't for the defense and Nick, we would've never been in there and never got the position to score that goal," Ferguson said.
The double overtime nail-biter was a credit to both the Athens and Mifflinburg defenses. Aside from Ferguson's game-winner, neither team got a shot off inside of the goal area. Mifflinburg had 11 corner kicks in the win, but couldn't set any plays up off them due to Athens' back line refusing to give Mifflinburg a good look at the net.
"Their back four was very organized, so they were tough to break down. We tried through balls, we were trying to get it through them and attack them, but they were organized," Gehers said.
Mifflinburg advances to face Danville on Saturday in the District 4 Class AA quarterfinals at a site and time to be determined.