Patrick Deutsch/special to the times news Peter Kruger of Tamaqua (9) prepares to kick the ball as Pottsville's Brady Wile closes in from behind.
The Tamaqua boys soccer team knows they'll be playing in next week's Schuylkill League playoffs.
...but that's about all they know for right now.
Last night, the Blue Raiders took care of business by finishing off their Schuylkill League schedule with a 4-0 shutout of visiting Pottsville to move to 12-5 overall and 12-2 in the League.
Now, their fate lies in the hands of their foes.
Later today (weather permitting), Blue Mountain (11-1-1 in the League) travels to North Schuylkill with the Schuylkill League Division 1 Championship up for grabs. An Eagles win will give Blue Mountain the Division 1 crown, while cementing Tamaqua as the Division 1 wildcard for next week's playoffs. However, a North Schuylkill win will award the Blue Raiders the Division 1 Title, while Blue Mountain will slip to the wildcard. In their earlier regular season meeting, Blue Mountain escaped with a 3-2 victory over the Spartans.
The Division 2 playoff picture is just as unsettled. Halifax and Schuylkill Haven have both qualified for the League playoffs, but will most likely need a tiebreaking game on Monday night at Blue Mountain (pending a Schuylkill Haven victory over winless Lourdes this afternoon) to determine the Division 2 winner and wildcard.
"I just got done telling the guys that it doesn't matter who we're playing, as long as we're playing together as a team," stated Tamaqua head coach Greg Stewart. "Obviously, it would be nice to win the Division 1 Championship, but that's something we no longer have any control over. We can only control how we play on this field and I think we're getting better each and every day."
Last night's game ended a grueling stretch of seven games in eight days for the Raiders, in which they posted six wins.
"We knew we were already in the League playoffs so we didn't need to win this game, but we wanted to come out and play well, which I thought we did," added Stewart. "The back-to-back-to-back games can be a little taxing on the kids, but they pulled through and now we have a couple of days off to recuperate for next week."
Tamaqua got on a scoreboard just a little over six minutes into the contest on an indirect kick by Caleb Leibenguth, which was assisted by Eric Bachert.
Bachert them followed up with a direct kick at the 17:22 mark of the first half to give Tamaqua a 2-0 lead at the break.
In the second half, Tamaqua's Gonzalo Hernandez Cascante upped the ante with a goal off a Peter Kruger assist, and Cesare Picone finished off the Raiders scoring when Pottsville goalie Nick Hair was caught out of position with 18:50 remaining in the game.
Cascante, an exchange student from Spain, tallied his 20th goal of the season, which is the second most in the Schuylkill League (behind the 25 tallies from Williams Valley's TJ Leiter).
"Gonzalo was a pleasant surprise for us," lauded Steward. "I knew we were going to be competitive this year, but him showing up was a blessing."
Tamaqua held a 12-2 advantage on shots on goal and a 2-1 edge in corner kicks. Pottsville's first shot on goal didn't come until 21:58 remaining in the game.
Zack Lakitsky had two saves in goal for Tamaqua in posting his fourth shutout of the season, while the Pottsville tandem of Nick Hair and Shavinsky Thomas made a combined five stops.