Thorpe gets key soccer victory
Tamaqua's Steven Billet (10) and Jim Thorpe's Caleb Heller (13) battle for possession of the ball. The Olympians won the Schuylkill League soccer showdown, 2-0, on Thursday night.
Tamaqua, Jim Thorpe and Blue Mountain all want to be playing at Tri-Valley on October 16 in the Schuylkill League semifinals.
However, in the three-team race for Division 1 supremacy, only two of those teams will ultimately reach their final destination.
Last night in Tamaqua, the road map became a little bit clearer, as Jim Thorpe posted a 2-0 victory over the Blue Raiders, it's second straight victory over Tamaqua this season.
The loss now drops Tamaqua to 4-3 in the league and puts the Raiders firmly in the back seat, while Jim Thorpe is riding shotgun in the front seat with a 6-1 league mark.
Blue Mountain, also sporting a 6-1 record in the league, is still occupying the driver's seat though by virtue of a 2-0 victory over the Olympians on September 19.
Should both teams win its next two league games, it will set up an October 9th showdown between the two teams with the Schuylkill League Division 1 championship hanging in the balance.
"It was a hard fought game tonight between two good teams," stated Jim Thorpe head coach Tony Dixon. "Tamaqua really played well and stifled the midfield tonight, so I was just happy to get through it and come out with the victory."
"We know what's at stake here, but we certainly can't get ahead of ourselves," added Dixon about looking foward toward a rematch with Blue Mountain. "We thought we could have beaten Blue Mountain at home, but that didn't happen. We still have to get through North Schuylkill and Pine Grove, but the match with Blue Mountain will probably end up dictating which one of us wins the Division."
With both teams fighting through a scoreless game over the first 30 minutes, the first break appeared to go Tamaqua's way with 21:17 left in the first half.
Jim Thorpe's Kyle Lawrence was called for a handball in the box, which awarded a penalty kick to Tamaqua's Eric Hertzog.
Hertzog delivered a well-executed kick to the lower left post, but Olympians keeper Justin Kaminski made a diving safe.
"It was stupid penalty really, and a score there could really have turned the whole game in Tamaqua's favor," noted Dixon. "It was a great save by Justin though and his reflexes this year have really been brilliant."
With 10:00 left in the first half, Jim Thorpe drew first blood. After a long outlet pass by Kaminski, Corey Ligenza chased down the ball on a breakaway goal that put the Olympians ahead 1-0 heading into halftime.
Jim Thorpe wasted little time adding an insurance goal in the early stages of the second half. With 38:25 on the clock, Ligenza found Dalton Becker cutting toward the net. Becker delivered a picturesque header right past Tamaqua keeper Tyler Cimino for the 2-0 lead.
Ligenza, the team's leading scorer and the top assist man in the Schuylkill League, had a hand in both Olympian goals.
"Corey is an incredible talent and I think he's shown that all year," added Dixon. "He just needs to learn how to reign in his emotions and keep his composure out on the field, because sometimes his mouth gets him in trouble."
Tamaqua, who entered the week tied with Jim Thorpe and Blue Mountain at 4-1 in the league, has now dropped four straight games (after a four-game winning streak).
To add insult to injury, the Blue Raiders (5-7 overall) are 1-4 since leading scorer Cesare Picone was forced out of the lineup with a broken foot.
"For the most part, I thought we played really well tonight," said Tamaqua head coach Greg Stewart. "Both teams had opportunities tonight. The difference in the game was that they converted theirs, we didn't."
Jim Thorpe (9-2 overall) outshot Tamaqua 14-12 and held a 5-3 edge in corner kicks.
Justin Kaminski made 10 saves in goal for the Olympians, while Tamaqua's Tyler Cimino had six stops.
"We're in a little bit of a slump right now but we'll fight hard to get out of it," added Stewart. "We'll looked to play spoiler and try to beat Blue Mountain again, and if Jim Thorpe can manage to beat Blue Mountain, we can still find ourselves in the Schuylkill League playoffs. The season is far from over."