DuBOIS — Coming off back-to-back District 9 Class A title-game losses, the Brockway boys soccer team trekked back to the top of the mountain Thursday night with a dominant performance in a 7-0 win over Port Allegany at DuBois Area High School.
The victory avenged a 2-0 loss to Port in last year’s D-9 finals in Bradford and also gave the school its first district crown since 2013, with that crown capping a run of three straight.
The Rovers also beat Port, 6-2, in that 2013 title game.
Brockway (18-0) has now played in six of the last seven D-9 Class A championship games, capturing four titles in that span. The Rovers also lost the 2015 title game (1-0 to Karns City) and fell in the semifinals three years ago in 2014.
While things finished golden for the Rovers, they certainly didn’t start out that way as Brockway struggled to crack Port Allegany’s compacted defense in the Gator box.
In fact, it took Brockway nearly 24 minutes to do so. And, it was senior Anthony Esposito — who returned in the D-9 semifinals after battling illness — who got the Rovers on the scoreboard with a nice goal.
The play started on the opposite side of the field from Esposito, with a Rover making a pass to the outside to junior Hunter Allenbaugh, who in turned made a nice into the left side of the Gator box.
Allenbaugh whipped a cross through the box and Esposito ran on to the pass and promptly fired home a shot to put Brockway up 1-0 with 16:06 left in the opening half.
Esposito’s goal, which proved to be the eventual game-winner, got the Rover offense rolling. Brockway added a second goal before the break on a penalty kick by Allenbaugh before exploding for five more goals in the second half to invoke the mercy-rule clock.
After not scoring in the first 23:54 of the game, the Rovers racked up seven goals — by six different players — in a span of 43:10 between the end of the first half and beginning of the second.
Senior Carter Adams scored twice in the second half and added an assist, while Allenbaugh finished with the one goal and three assists. Junior Zane Puhala, sophomore Linkin Nichols and freshman Ryan Lin also netted second-half goals to help the Rovers win going away.
Brockway outshot the Gators 34-5, including 20-2 in the opening 40 minutes. Senior keeper Austin Moore and freshman Lewis Painter combined on the shutout. Moore, who now is in mid-20s in career shutouts, made three saves, while Painter recorded one in his time on the field.
Brockway has not conceded a goal in two playoff games, having beaten Elk County Catholic, 2-0, last week in the D-9 semifinals.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better performance,” said Brockway coach Rich Esposito. “They really wanted this. For the seniors, this was there third time here in a row and they hadn’t won a gold medal. So, they had a little incentive tonight, and it started from last year. We ended the year with two tough losses (Port in D-9 finals and 3-2 to Sewickley Academy in double-OT in PIAA playoffs).
“They were determined to get back to this game and win it no matter who it was we were playing. And, it was a little more incentive that it was Port, the team that knocked us out last year. I’m just proud of the seniors, and everybody, for hanging in there.
“It was tough at first tonight, because it’s frustrating trying to break down that defense. But, they showed they were patient with the ball, and we had a tremendous amount of shots in the first half.
“We finally broke the ice, and it was great to see Anthony score after being out for a while. We got another penalty kick and that second goal was huge going into the half. The flood gates kind of opened from there, and the kids moved the ball around nicely in the second half.
“And, what can you say about our defense. They were unbelievable. We got another shutout and kept the shots to a minimum on Austin, and when he had to make a save, he made one.
Both teams had players fire shots just over the net in first two minutes of the game. Moore than stopped a long direct kick from Port’s Bryce Baker in the fourth minute — which proved to be the Gators final shot of the half.
The remainder of the opening 40 minutes were mostly played in the Gators’ defensive end, as Brockway peppered keeper Joshua Mealy with a host of shots. Some of those attempts went high or wide, but Mealy also made 11 first-half saves to keep his team in the game. Mealy made a handful of above-average saves during that stretch.
However, the Rovers’ relentless pressure eventually paid off when Allenbaugh’s cross through the Gator box found Esposito on the other side before the senior slammed home the shot to put Brockway up 1-0 at the 23:43 mark.
Esposito nearly made it 2-0 less than a minute later, but Mealy made a leaping save to keep it a 1-0 game. The Rovers kept the pressure on from there, with Puhala firing a shot into the side of the net in the 27th minute.
Mealy then made a diving save on a Tino Inzana shot to deflect it out of play for a corner kick just past the 30:00 mark. Adams nearly scored a little over three minutes later, but Mealy deflected his hard shot off the crossbar before securing the loose ball.
Mealy made two more saves before Allenbaugh put the Rovers up 2-0 when he converted his second penalty kick in as many playoff games with 2:21 left in the half. Allenbaugh drew the penalty kick when he was tripped on a strong run in the Gator box.
Brockway carried the momentum from that late goal in the second half and registered three shots in the first three minutes. Adams then all but put the game away with two goals in a span of 2:29.
Adams scored his first at the 45:51 mark off an assist by Allenbaugh, then found the back of the net again at 48:20 when he slammed home a rebound shot after mealy initially stopped a shot from the left side by Angelo Inzana.
The Rovers were far from finished scoring though, as they tacked on three more goals over the next 19 minutes to build a commanding 7-0 lead with 12:54 left to play.
Puhala scored the first of those goals with a blistering shot from the top right edge of the box at 56:35, while Nichols scored on a similar shot on the left side after making a strong run with the ball after receiving a pas from Dominic Inzana. Lin capped the scoring when he found the back of the net off a pass from Adams.
“It was nice to get back here and nice to win it again,” said Esposito. “It was a long road to get back here, and I’m so thankful for my staff and everyone who has helped out. Everybody worked hard for this.
“I’m glad we got all the kids in tonight. It’s not often you can get your entire bench in for a couple minutes in the D-9 finals. And, to have the starters on the field at the was big because they worked hard all year to eanr this, and I wanted them to be out there.
“Now, we move on to next week and hopefully get over the WPIAL hurdle we can’t seem to break. We’ll see what happens Tuesday.”
Brockway will open the PIAA playoffs on Tuesday against Seton-LaSalle, the No. 3 team from the WPIAL. The game will be played a District 9 site to be determined.