By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
CATAWISSA -- It wasn't exactly what Shikellamy coach Jon Steese had called for, but he gladly accepted the result.
With just over 3 minutes left on the clock, Braves junior captain Drayton Laverio stood ready for his free kick and saw something in the Southern Columbia defense that he liked. That's when he booted it deep.
He couldn't have executed it any better. The ball floated right to Anthony Velasquez, who jumped over a defender and headed a perfect pass toward the far post of the goal from the top corner of the goal area.
The ball got past a diving Tyler Tomaschik in goal, but, more importantly, it all but put the game away with 3:01 to play.
The score gave Shikellamy a 2-0 shutout win over Southern Columbia in a HAC crossover match Saturday morning in Catawissa.
"We've been working on our set plays the last couple weeks. We've been pushing to be successful with them," Steese said. "I put a lot of faith in our captains. He (Laverio) saw it and Anthony always seems to get his head on something. He's awesome out of the air."
Velasquez was key all morning for the Braves (1-0), as he helped create the first goal to put Shikellamy on the board against the Tigers (0-1).
Dribbling down the right side of the pitch, Velasquez quickly passed across the field to freshman Dylan Snyder, who connected just outside of the goal area to the opposite post to break open the scoreless game with 22:11 in the first half to play.
Southern Columbia -- coming off a 10-9-1 season last year -- couldn't get opportunities to score against a very solid Shikellamy defense. The Tigers had 11 shots on the day, but only three were solid looks at the goal.
Southern Columbia struggled setting up plays as the Braves defense often was too quick and broke up anything before it developed and routinely kept the Tigers offense out of scoring position.
Not one Southern Columbia shot came from inside of the penalty area.
"Their back line played solid all day. The formation they were playing back there -- basically dropping their two center defenders back -- we were trying to get the ball outside (or) we were trying to go over the top," Southern Columbia coach Dave Hall said. "They were doing a very effective job, plus they're quick; they got speed back there. Whenever we try to get the one-on-one break, they were faster. They have nice speed back there, and they played very well as a unit."
Early in the second half, Southern Columbia had a strong chance to tie the game up with about 30 minutes remaining. Southern Columbia senior Nate Mitchell lined up for a free kick right on the 18-yard box line and drilled a great shot to the right corner of the net. However, Shikellamy goalie Justin Engle dove and made a fantastic stop to hit the ball away.
The Braves had two solid opportunities before their second goal to increase their lead.
Seth Burk took a free kick about 10 yards deep behind the penalty area, but just went wide left of the goal. About a minute later, Tristan Brosious attempted a shot off a pass from five yards behind, but missed just right of the goal.