MILL HALL - In a matchup of the area's two biggest schools, Central Mountain and Williamsport delivered an evenly matched contest.
The slightest mistake appeared to make the difference. And after a stellar first half, Williamsport's keeper mishandled a long attempt from Thomas Eaton, who punted the ball from 30 yards out in an effort to put a shot on goal. The attempt worked as Brett Kavanagh mishandled the ball, which found the back of the net for a Central Mountain lead.
The goal held up as Central Mountain's defense answered the call throughout the second half to preserve the Wildcats' 1-0 win over Williamsport.
"We just had to keep them out and keep them from scoring," Central Mountain's Philip Brinker said. "We wanted the shutout and we were able to get that. We felt quite a bit of pressure, but we just had to keep cool and not panic."
After pushing the tempo throughout the opening 20 minutes, Central Mountain (2-1) struggled to find any quality shots. Williamsport's backline started to get into passing lanes, which shut down Central Mountain's attack.
The Wildcats pushed the ball through late in the half, but appeared to lose control when the ball was cleared to the middle of the field to Eaton.
Eaton played the hero last year in Central Mountain's win over Danville and repeated a similar feat Thursday to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
Eaton also nearly took a corner kick in during the final ten minutes. He timed the ball perfectly, but missed high over the crossbar.
"I thought we played evenly with them throughout the first half," Williamsport coach Lee Kaar said. "I just told them to keep their heads up after the goal."
Central Mountain's offense controlled the early portions of the game, connecting on short passes and sending through balls down the wings to create pressure.
Matthew Storeman nearly gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead after controlling a ball near the box and sending it into Philip Brinker, who missed wide with a header. Brinker sent another header wide in the 28th minute.
Despite the misses, Brinker continued to find holes in the Millionaires defense, which struggled to cover players in the box.
"They worked the ball well side-to-side in the first half," Kaar said.
In the 13th minute, Central Mountain nearly broke through when Micah Brinker punted a ball over the Millionaires backline. The ball found a Central Mountain forward, but was quickly stopped by Kavanagh, who cut down the line to block the attempt.
Philip Brinker recorded the Wildcats' first attempt on goal moments later with a direct from the center of the field. Kavanagh was there to make the stop, as well.
Kavanagh played an aggressive style of keeper, coming out past the 18 to stop through balls and scoring chances. He routinely beat Central Mountain's strikers to the ball, while also cutting down angles on shots and passing lanes.
Kavanagh was forced to come out of his goal at the 20 minute mark of the second half when Kevin Hook sent a ball into the middle of the box. With players unmarked, Kavanagh was forced to step up and punch the ball out before an damage could be done. Central Mountain nearly scored again when a shot beat Kavanagh, but went wide in the 17th minute of the second half.
Central Mountain controlled possession throughout the second half. Philip Brinker played a big part, sending long attempts up from the defensive third to create chances.
"He's an anchor," Central Mountain coach Jeff Brinker said of Philip. "He knows what he is doing. He's able to move guys around. He saved us a lot tonight running guys down."
Central Mountain displayed a huge amount of trust in keeper David Kohen. The Wildcats routinely sent balls back to him, trusting he could control the ball and send it to the middle of the field. Kohen was up for the challenge, sometimes beating out defenders for the ball and punting it to midfield.
Kohen was finally tested when Terrance Hillman found an opening along the wing. He pushed the ball up and sent a high shot to the far post, but was stopped when Kohen caught the ball cleanly for the save.
Kohen nearly made the Wildcats' pay early in the second half when Bryan Kavanagh popped a ball over his head. The attempt beat Kohen, but went wide of the goal.
Kohen was put to the test after a foul was called on a direct kick in front of the 18-yard box. Williamsport elected to go over Central Mountain's wall, which worked perfectly. Kohen was there to make a jumping punch save, hitting the ball over the crossbar for a Williamsport corner. Williamsport failed to do anything with the corner attempt.
"We have 11 defenders and we have 11 offensive players, and we expect our keeper to play with his feet," Jeff Brinker said. "David has come a long way and we'll keep using him as an outlet."
Philip Brinker and the rest of the Wildcats' backline made if difficult for the Millionaires to push the ball into the box. Brinker kept the line in position throughout the game, directing players into passing lanes and blocking shots with his body.
In the final ten minutes, Williamsport appeared to have a breakaway until Brinker hustled back to forced a corner. Williamsport (0-1-1) finished with six corners in the contest, but failed to post a single shot off of them.
Central Mountain 1, Williamsport 0
CM-Thomas Eaton (unassisted), 38:05.
Shots: W 6, CM 14. Shots on goal: W 3, CM 6. Corners: W 6, CM 3. Saves: W (Brett Kavanagh) 5, CM (David Kohen) 2.
Records: Williamsport (0-1-1). Central Mountain (2-1). Next game: Central Mountain at Altoona, Saturday, 11 a.m.