JT ousted from Schuylkill playoff contention
Jim Thorpe was in control of its own destiny on Monday as it went after a spot in the Schuylkill League soccer playoffs.
First place Blue Mountain put a damper on the Olympians’ ‘win and you’re in” scenario, however, as the Eagles’ 1-0 victory - combined with Pine Grove’s 3-0 win over Pottsville - eliminated Jim Thorpe from postseason contention.
Blue Mountain secured the Division 1 championship with its win, while Pine Grove claimed the Division 1 wildcard spot.
The Eagles’ Aiden Valentine took a long pass between his feet from Torrin Rabenstein and was able to twist the ball past Olympian goalkeeper Jacob Geiser with 10 minutes gone by in the second half for the lone score of the game.
“You can’t make a mistake against Blue Mountain,” said Jim Thorpe coach Mike Dudak. “We made a defensive error when they scored and after that, we weren’t able to get any really good opportunities to tie the score.”
That’s primarily because after grabbing the lead, the Eagles went into a defensive shell that saw them drop as many as six players in front of goalkeeper DJ Burkard.
Thorpe’s lone shot on goal during the final 30 minutes came on Georiy Sakharov’s 35-yard free kick that was an easy save for Burkard at the 25-minute mark.
That wasn’t the case in the opening half, as the Olympians held a decided advantage in possession, and created several excellent scoring opportunities.
Burkard was up to the challenge, however, as the Eagles’ goalie denied a left-footed shot by JT’s Noah Geiser eight minutes into the game, and a few minutes later stopped a point blank shot by the Olympians’ Ryan Monahan.
With 18 minutes to go in the first half, Thorpe (6-2-3) had what turned out to be its best opportunity to score. Dawson Meckes’ free kick from about 25 yards out hit a defender and bounced right back to him. He booted the rebound toward goal, but Burkard leaped high and got his fingertips on the ball to deflect it off the bottom of the crossbar, and then eventually back into his hands.
“We played our typical game,” said Eagles’ coach Chris Brauer. “On our goal, we had a good service and an excellent finish. We worked well as a team, and it seems like every time we play Jim Thorpe, it’s a low scoring, one-goal game. We were fortunate to get the one today.”
BIG SAVE ... Geiser kept Jim Thorpe in position to tie the game with a solid save off a shot by Valentine with 6:50 left to play.
TACTICAL PLAY ... The Eagles took precious seconds off the clock by taking their time with three straight corner kicks in the final minutes of the game.
NUMBERS ... Blue Mountain (10-1) had four corner kicks to two for Jim Thorpe. Geiser blocked four shots for the Olympians, and Burkard had three saves for the Eagles.
JV TIE ... Thorpe’s JV team remained undefeated with a come-from-behind 2-2 tie in the opener.