Conemaugh Township goalkeeper Jeff Callihan knew he was going to have his work cut out for him on Monday afternoon against unbeaten North Star.
The senior came up big, making 11 saves, and his teammates scored a pair of goals in the second half to give the Indians a thrilling 2-1 victory in a WestPAC showdown with implications in District 5-A.
“My freshman year they beat us in the district semifinals and ever since then, it’s been a big rivalry,” Callihan said about the rivalry between the neighboring school districts. “My head was really into the game, but I try to play really aggressive in every game.”
After his team improved to
10-1, Township coach Christopher Miller said it was an evenly matched game.
“You never know what the outcome is going to be when these teams hit the field,” Miller said. “There is not a weak person on either team and both teams matchup well with each other. Fortunately for us this time, we came out on top.”
The Cougars (9-1) scored first on an Austin Swihura goal off the assist from Jacob Scrimager with 5:40 left in the first half.
The Indians got several close shots on North Star goalkeeper Kyle Louthan, who came up with the saves, in the early part of the second period.
Near the halfway point of the half, the Indians offense finally got to Louthan as Ben Wilson fed the ball to Russ Grunza, who sent the ball past Louthan for the equalizer.
“In the first half we weren’t playing our game,” Miller said. “We were just running to all of the balls and we didn’t really possess very well. We weren’t talking. Halftime we told them that they had to communicate more. We were putting balls in spaces where we had no one going to. We tried to look outside to our wings and then put the ball through and look for those crosses and keep crashing the net and be persistent and we did that.”
The Indians took the lead off a corner kick by Isaac Callihan which curved into the net with 12:01 left in the game.
“His curve was just outstanding today,” Miller said about Isaac Callihan’s corner kick.
After that, Jeff Callihan was kept on his toes by North Star, making some leaping saves to keep the Cougars off the board.
“I thought both teams played hard,” North Star coach Chad Duryea said. “It was obviously extremely physical. A lot of fouls were called and they had a couple guys that carded out. I would say the difference in the second half was their keeper. Jeff made some quality saves that not only kept them pushing forward, but allowed them to have some momentum. When your keeper makes saves like that, it’s a turning point in the game.”
Miller said his team knew that the Cougars were going to keep coming strong.
“Second half, it was about possession and about our guys talking to each other on the field, trusting each other as a team, knowing that if one was going to put that pass outside that someone was going to be there,” the Township coach said. “We all play offense and we all play defense from the beginning of the game. We know that we have a very big rivalry with them and it is going to be an aggressive game, a very physical game, but our guys turned it on in the second half.”