BROCKWAY — Bradford came out strong from the opening whistle, smothering DuBois for 80 minutes on their way to a 3-0 win in the District 9 Class 3A Championship game at Frank Varischetti Field Monday.
The Owls entered the game looking to avenge last year’s defeat in the D-9 title game in which the Beavers came away with a victory in penalty kicks.
Bradford imposed their will right away, dominating possession in the offensive half of the field and limiting DuBois’ offensive opportunities.
“We kinda started flat,” DuBois head coach Matt Erickson said. “They got the early goal on us and kept playing harder and we never recovered.”
While the Beavers struggled for most of the first half to get anything going offensively, they did have an early opportunity to break through on the scoreboard.
Nico McDonald got through the Owls’ defense and looked to give DuBois the lead in the 5th minute, but Bradford goalkeeper Evan Schmidt charged off his line and made a sliding save on the play.
That save was the only one the junior keeper had to make in the first half, as the Beavers’ only other shot of the opening 40 sailed high.
Meanwhile, Bradford’s offense fired a barrage of shots throughout the first half, as five of their nine shots were on goal.
While DuBois keeper Jordan Meinert turned away the Owls’ first two shots on goal to open the game, Bradford’s continuous offensive push finally paid off in the 17th minute.
Ian Grady connected with Colton Swanson inside the Beavers’ 18-yard box, as Swanson made a run from right to left in the middle of the box.
Despite being closely defended by a DuBois player, the junior was able to get off a low shot towards the right post with just enough power to get past a diving Meinert and into the back of the net to give the Owls a 1-0 lead 16:59 into the game.
Bradford’s offensive attack led to nine corner kicks in the opening half, while DuBois was unable to earn a single corner, but the Owls were not able to convert off any of the corners.
Instead it was a free kick that led to the second goal of the half for the second-seeded Owls.
The free kick was earned well outside from 30-yards out, as a well struck ball towards net bounced off the right post and into the middle of the crowded box.
The ball found its way to Cadyn Sutherland, who took advantage of the close range shot to give the Owls a 2-0 lead with 3:41 left in the opening half, which they took into the locker room for halftime.
One thing that hurt the Beavers throughout the night was their inability to link together several passes.
“We struggled even in our last regular season game with our passing,” Erickson said. “We’ve had two weeks without a competitive game, so it kinda makes it difficult to be comfortable going into a game like this.”
In the 52nd minute, DuBois got their best scoring opportunity of the night as they looked to cut Bradford’s lead in half.
Nick Graeca chased down a long punt off the foot of Meinert, outrunning a pair of defenders for the Owls to get a one-on-one opportunity with Schmidt.
The Bradford keeper sprinted off his line to pressure the sophomore on the play.
Graeca fired a hard shot past Schmidt which appeared to be heading into the back of the net, but instead sailed just inches high, bouncing off the cross bar and out of play.
Just over three minutes later the Beavers had another great opportunity to cut into the deficit as Graeca sent a through ball towards Nolan Bussell in the box.
Bussell slid for the ball in an attempt to get a shot on goal, but was just a split second too late, as Schmidt came out and scooped the ball away from the junior’s foot right before he could make contact.
Despite all of DuBois’ strong looks on goal in the early parts of the second half, it was Bradford finding the back of the net once again to add to their lead.
The Owls earned a penalty kick off a late slide tackle, as Grady stepped up to the spot for Bradford.
The junior fired the penalty kick inside the right post to give Bradford a 3-0 lead and all but end any hopes of a comeback for DuBois.
Despite the Beavers’ second-half push, the Owls still finished with a 6-5 advantage in shots to finish the game with a 15-7 edge in the shot department.
Schmidt made six saves to preserve the shoutout, while Meinert made six saves in a loss for the Beavers.
After being held without a corner kick in the opening half, DuBois earned just one in the second half, while Bradford finished the game with 12 corners.
Five seniors, Meiner, McDonald, Alex Gribik, Lane Shaffer and Tyler Buerk all took the field for the final time for DuBois Monday night.
“The seniors played a great season this year,” Erickson said. “We had better leadership on the team than we have had in a long time.”
The head coach noted that losing that group of seniors will make things difficult next season, but he expects his now junior class to step up and become leaders next year.
“We’ve got a really good younger group and we should be able to put together a pretty good team next year and keep it moving,” Erickson said.