Bulldog boys fall in AAA semis

MILLVILLE — After the final horn blew at Millard C. Ludwig Memorial Stadium in Millville, you could see the emotions pouring out from Jersey Shore’s players. After they gathered around their coach, Cole Black for one last-game huddle and prayer, they were all hugging one another and crying. For the seniors on the team, it’s the end of the road.

For everyone on the Bulldogs team, it was a stinging loss to a season that had high aspirations and hopes of winning the program’s first-ever district banner. But for Jersey Shore, unfortunately Mifflinburg dashed those hopes on Monday night. The Wildcats defeated the Bulldogs, 2-0, in the District 4 Class AAA semifinals to advance to face Athens on Wednesday at a time and place to be determined.

“Their speed, their tenacity, they’re a physical team (and) they’re a fast team,” Black said. “I think that really showed us that on top of this slick surface that at halftime, our guys were gassed. We were tired. I think we really showed second half, we really wanted this game. … Heart these guys showed just really shows what our program’s all about.”

“Three, four years ago, I’m not really sure that we could say we were in a position like this. It was because of this senior class (and) dedication they had to program. I said they’re going to leave a huge hole in these people’s lives, not just the team, because leadership they’ve shown us, the dedication they taught us (and) life lessons we learned because of them,” Black added. “They’re an awesome group of kids. I’m going to miss them to death. There’s a reason all 40 of us are sitting here bawling our eyes out today.”

Mifflinburg essentially sealed the game when the Wildcats scored with 2:36 remaining in the second half. From about 18 yards out, Mifflinburg’s Mason Novobilski rifled a shot to about the center of the goal that was just out of the reach of Jersey Shore goalie Calvin Lesser, who made a great diving attempt to stop the shot. The goal put the Wildcats up, 2-0.

Novobilski scored the first goal for Mifflinburg as well with 3:25 to play until halftime. From approximately the same distance out, he drilled the shot to the right post again just past Lesser for the opening goal late in the first half.

But the Bulldogs had chances throughout the game to score and kept up pressure against the Wildcats, even down 2-0.

With about 20 minutes in the game, trailing by just one goal, Jersey Shore’s Colton Miller had an excellent sliding shot just in front of the goal that Mifflinburg goalie Thomas Lichtel managed to block. The ball stayed in play and got to the foot of Jacob Butzler, who took it from roughly 12 yards out and fired a great shot toward the right post, but Lichtel came up again with a solid stop.

With 11:20 to play, it was Darin Thomas who took a great shot from 22 yards out and tried sneaking a shot just under the crossbar, but the shot just went over and out of bounds.

Anytime the Bulldogs tried a quality shot, it seemed Lichtel was always right there to prevent the Bulldogs from answering.

“It comes down to fact their keeper had an unbelievable game. Amount of opportunities we put on him (and) saves he was putting in, had some gone in we’d probably be up 3-nil,” Black said. “Just a good keeper and solid defensive plan.”

The 13 seniors on Jersey Shore’s team leave behind a solid legacy, having made the playoffs all four years they were on the team after Jersey Shore only had one postseason appearance in program history prior to that. The Bulldogs really wanted to get to that district championship game and make history, but unfortunately came up one game shy.

“The fact that we’re first Jersey Shore team ever in history to really think that we could be in a situation like that (to get to final), I think they were definitely feeling the pressure, but they’re up to the task,” Black said.

M-Mason Novobilski 3:25. M-Novobilski, 2:36.

Shots: JS 7, M 7. Corners: JS 1, M 7. Saves: JS (Calvin Lesser) 3, M (Thomas Lichtel) 7.

Records: Mifflinburg (14-5), Jersey Shore (12-6). Next game: Mifflinburg vs. Athens, District 4 Class AAA championship, Wednesday, TBD.