Wellsboro boys one win from first District 4 title

When the clock struck 0:00, Wellsboro head coach John Shaffer threw his arms in the air and sprinted from the bench to the field like a jovial child running around the playground at recess. Once he was out on the turf, Shaffer immediately tracked down his keeper, Jake Mitchell, and the two shared a joyful hug before joining the rest of the Hornets at midfield for a team celebration.

“You guys will remember this for the rest of your lives,” Shaffer told his team before breaking their post-game huddle.

And he was right, they will.

Shaffer’s excitement was the result of a 1-0 win over Sayre in the quarterfinals of the PIAA District 4 Class A boys soccer semifinals at Balls Mills. It earned Wellsboro its first-ever trip to the district finals, Thursday vs. Bloomsburg at a time and place to be determined, and its first trip to the PIAA state tournament.

Now in his fourth season with the Hornets, this win seemed especially gratifying for the young coach, as this year’s class of seniors is the first group that Shaffer mentored since its freshman year.

“I’m just so proud of these seniors and the whole group,” Shaffer said. “We talked a lot about believing in the process, and they bought into the process. Now the results are showing,” he said. “I’m so happy for them. They believed in me and I believed in them.”

Sayre didn’t make it easy on Wellsboro.

In the first half, the Redskins came out energetic and aggressive, keeping possession of the ball for much of the early going. They outshot the Hornets 5-3, and seemed like the favorite to win when the two teams went into half time tied up 0-0.

But the second half was a different story, as Wellsboro emerged from the locker room looking like a new team.

As their confidence grew, the Hornets took advantage of the big field at the Balls Mills soccer complex, and spread the ball out, which helped their offensive game greatly.

“We were fighting injuries so we moved guys around, and played with a different formation than we did yesterday,” Shaffer said. “So I think the boys were just a little mentally hesitant at the start of the game.”

“It took us 40 minutes to get it figured out, but there was no fear in the second half. They realized they could go at them, and if they did the right things we had a chance,” said Shaffer.

The Hornets got their big chance in the 53rd minute, when midfielder Dan Brooks was able to hit a header on a deflected ball that caught Sayre goalkeeper Giuseppe Scavone by surprise and went in for the game’s only goal.

“It was amazing,” Brooks said of his goal. “That was a once in a lifetime kind of thing. It definitely caught me by surprise.”

“We are so even that I didn’t think either of us was going to wear the other down and get a side-footer into the net,” Shaffer said. “We knew it would take something special to beat them.”

W-Dan Brooks, 52:01.

Shots on goal: Wellsboro 11, Sayre 12; Corners: Wellsboro 1, Sayre 4; Goalkeepers; W- Jake Mitchell (6 saves). S- Giuseppe Scavone (5 saves)