SELINSGROVE — As Evan Pickering strode confidently on to breezy Steffen Field late Tuesday afternoon, the Selinsgrove sophomore knew his role was singular in nature.
Even if the Millionaires’ Jimmy Pombor bounced over to his team’s bench area for some timely instruction or a quick swig of water, Pickering wasn’t far away.
And while Pickering carried out his instructions and did whatever he could to prevent the gifted Williamsport sophomore from running roughshod in the attacking third, if Pombor shook loose momentarily the Seals responded with help and numbers.
So, with Pombor limited to one dangerous shot throughout the 80-minute exercise, Selinsgrove countered with goals from Matt Gilfert and Jamison Bohner as the Seals blanked the reigning Heartland Conference Division I boys soccer champs 2-0.
Cole Catherman finished with five stops as Chris Lupolt’s bunch (4-1, 3-0 HAC-I) extended their winning streak to three games with their latest success. Williamsport (1-2, 1-1) picked up seven stops from goalkeeper Elliott Wannop.
Willing to dig in defensively and sacrifice pushing numbers forward — other than scrambling freshman Nick Ritter — the Seals’ tactical approach worked throughout the opening 40 minutes as Pickering kept the collar on the elusive Pombor while backs Mason Beaver and Dylan Watts consistently were in the right spots.
“I think it was a great call by the coach,” Pickering said of man-marking Pombor. “I just had to stay focused on him. It was tough, but I could stay on him. He’s a good player.
“He’s very hard to play against.”
“We were trying to have someone keying (on him) and have a second defender aware of what’s what,” Lupolt said of the Seals’ tactical approach.
And when Ritter was able to make several things happen inside the area late in the first half, the ball was bouncing around before coming to a complete stop some three yards out. That’s when Gilfert hopped on the sitter and buried it at 39:04.
“It definitely boosted our confidence,” Pickering said of Gilfert’s goal. “But now we’re going to work even harder in practice, because we know what’s coming.”
Once the scrappy affair resumed after the break — five cautions and one red were shown over the course of the match — both squads started to perk up on the attack as Bohner watched Wannop smack away his direct and Catherman rerouted a Pombor rip.
Then, after Ethan Freynik clotheslined Gilfert just outside the penalty area, Bohner took advantage by popping a direct into the net at 56:01 to give the Seals a 2-0 lead.
Although Williamsport pushed Pombor from the midfield to forward, Pickering’s assignment never changed. Yet the Millionaires never tried to run their catalyst off a screen in an effort to try to find him some needed space.
Pombor did have one chance with about 17 minutes left, but his right-footed blast was well over the crossbar. The Millionaires’ Kaleb McKeon had a decent opportunity with just under seven to go, but Catherman was able to get to that shot.
What also was pleasing to Selinsgrove was not yielding a quality look in the final 6:11 — or the segment of the game when the Seals had to play short once Gilfert was assessed his second caution and the red that goes with it. So, he’ll miss Thursday’s contest.
“Both teams were really amped up to start,” Lupolt said. “It’s become a rivalry. They always play well against us and we’re trying to catch them.”
SELINSGROVE 2, WILLIAMSPORT 0
S-Matt Gilfert (unassisted), 39:04.
S-Jamison Bohner (unassisted), 56:01.
Shots: S 9-5. Corners: W 3-0. Saves: Williamsport (Elliott Wannop-7 saves, Zach Lake-0); Selinsgrove (Cole Catherman-5).