By Marion Valanoski
For The Daily Item
ALMEDIA -- East Juniata's boys went to the half Tuesday determined to score the tying goal and build momentum toward a win.
Instead, the Tigers were stunned by No. 11 seed Millville, which added to its lead and pulled a 2-0 upset in the first round of the District 4 Class A playoffs at Central Columbia H.S.
Whether the sixth-seeded Tigers (11-5-3) underestimated the Quakers (11-8) or not, the Tri-Valley League side was guilty of not taking advantage of its opportunities, especially in the opening half of play.
Millville appeared to relish its role as the "underdog" and made the most of the few scoring opportunities the Tigers' stingy defense allowed.
East Juniata went right at Millville from the start but, despite several great rushes and some better-than-average looks, the Tigers were unable to get a clean shot on sophomore Britton Kittle in goal.
Zane Lauver had the best chance with 19:20 remaining in the half but his attempt hooked left and kept the score deadlocked at 0. The better-conditioned Quakers did just enough to disrupt the Tigers' offense and prevent them from getting a clear look.
"We had tons of chances but could not finish off our attempts," Tigers co-head coach Don Troutman said. "They basically had only two shots on goal in the first half and yet had the lead."
At the 16:19 mark of the first half, Millville's Keegan Bower was able to slip through the defense and somehow get off a clear pass to Mitchell Watts, who wasted little time drilling the ball past freshman keeper Clay Sheaffer for the match's first score and a surprising 1-0 advantage.
"You can't let scoring opportunities go by," Quakers coach Sandy Whispell said. "You have to act, not react, and when that opportunity presented itself we took advantage and were able to score and take the lead."
The Tigers held a 6-2 edge in shots on goal and 5-1 advantage in corner kicks in the opening half, but still found themselves trailing.
"I'd like to think we dominated the action in the first half but had nothing to show for it," Troutman said.
Sheaffer made a great stop on Kenny Cowperthwait's shot early in the second half. Despite again playing in Millville's end of the field, East Juniata could not come up with a clear shot on goal and was frustrated in its attempts to tie the score.
Opportunity reared its head again with 19:06 remaining in the match. Bower beat his defender to a loose ball and passed it to Chase Laubach, who drilled the ball into the left corner of the goal just over the outstretched arms of Sheaffer for the all-important second goal.
"Our confidence got a tremendous boost when we scored that second goal," Whispell said. "One thing I can say is that we may not have the most talented team but I know we have the best-conditioned and our legs were fresh in the second half. We really worked on conditioning this year and it has paid off."
The Tigers were unable to generate any type of offense the rest of the way and the Quakers ended up with coming off the field a surprising but happy winner.
"We did not have many clear shots on goal but we had enough of chances," Troutman said. "However, we never really tested their keeper."