Wellsboro boys drop D4 A title to Bloom

It took 18 minutes for Bloomsburg’s offense to take its first shot on goal in the PIAA District 4 Class A championship on Saturday vs. Wellsboro, making it one of the longest shotless droughts the Panthers endured all season.

But after those 18 long minutes were up, the Panthers’ high-octane offense came to life and proved why it has the No. 10 ranked team in the state, as it went on a flurry and forced 12 more shots before the end of the first half.

Once established, Bloomsburg’s offensive persistence proved too overwhelming for Wellsboro, as it would go on to beat the Hornets, 2-0, in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the scoreboard indicated, earning the 21-0 Panthers their first District 4 Class A championship in school history.

“We have put in a lot of hard work and a lot of hours,” Bloomsburg head coach Mike McGarry said. “Some of these guys have been looking forward to this since they were playing club ball at 10 years old, saying ‘I want to be on the first district championship team at Bloomsburg’. They did that tonight.”

The Panthers’ biggest weapon on the field Saturday night was their junior striker, Jonathan Nixon, who scored both goals.

“Nixon is our goal scorer, he’s the guy we look to,” said McGarry. “When we need one, when there is a half of an opportunity, he will put it in.”

Nixon’s first score came with 14:28 left in the first half, after he caught a piece of a deflected ball with his head and chip it into the upper left corner of the goal, just past the outstretched hands of Wellsboro keeper Jake Mitchell.

His second big play of the night came in the game’s 49th minute, when he tore off a fastbreak up the middle of the field, and knocked a shot in from just below the penalty arc, splitting two Wellsboro defenders.

“I think it was two mental mistakes that hurt us,” Wellsboro’s head coach John Shaffer said. “We knew we were going to be put under pressure and that we needed to be focused for 80 minutes, and it was two mental mistakes that gave them two opportunities. They are too good of a team to not take advantage of those.”

Aside from those two mistakes, the Hornets’ other big issue was their lack of offensive presence.

Wellsboro was outshot 25-1 by the Panthers, who seemed more comfortable playing on the large field at the Balls Mills soccer complex.

“The big field really plays into the way we play our game,” McGarry said. “We are very organized, we move the ball quickly. So, the bigger the field, the better it is for us.”

“We also had a lot more of the possession, and we did more with our possessions. We moved forward and attacked, and eventually managed to break them down,” he said.

Even with the loss, there were still positive aspects of Wellsboro’s game that could be seen on Saturday.

Sure, they let up a lot of shots and ball possession, but the fact that the Green Hornets held Bloomsburg to just two scores was a feat in itself. Their keeper Jake Mitchell was a major reason for that, as he played an inspired game and posted 10 saves.

“There defense was very solid, and I commend them,” said McGarry. “They are probably one of the best defenses we have seen all season.”

Luckily for Wellsboro, it hasn’t lost back-to-back games all season, which is a trend that they hope to continue as they prepare for the PIAA state tournament later this week.

That’s the cool thing about this team, we rebound from losses really well,” Shaffer said. Hopefully we come out and play whoever we have with a positive attitude.”

B- Jonathon Nixon, 14:28; B-Jonathon Nixon, 22:45

Shots on goal: Wellsboro 1, Bloomsburg 25. Corners: Wellsboro 1, Bloomsburg 6. Saves: W (Jake Mitchell) 10. B (Colin Warren)?0. Fouls: Wellsboro 9, Bloomsburg 6