LOYALSOCK TWP. – When Coughlin has had the most success in games this season, it scored first.
In fact, in the Crusaders three losses this season, their opponent notched the opening goal each occasion.
Unfortunately for the District 2 Class 2A champions, one of those losses came Tuesday in the first round of the PIAA Championships in a 1-0 defeat by District 4 champ Lewisburg at Loyalsock High School.
The Crusaders were lurking early on trying to net the first score of the game. They had several chances to do so. Not only did Coughlin (16-3-1) have two corner kicks in the opening minutes, but a shot by Travis Keil hit the upper part of the post seven minutes into the match.
Anytime you're down it's hard. I wasn't actually too worried because I thought we still had better play, Coughlin coach Rob Havard said. We had the opportunities early…If you capitalize on your opportunities, you think maybe (the score is) two-three to one coming in at the half.
A golden opportunity was missed and the Green Dragons (19-2-1) took a gasp, then made sure they capitalized on one of their early chances. Lewisburg had just two corners in the entire game, but on the second chance, it converted.
Branson Ferster took the penalty and nailed it right in front of the net. That's where Max Reed was waiting as he headed the ball past Coughlin keeper Josh Featherman for a 1-0 lead with 6:44 remaining in the opening half.
I thought we played a great game. I thought we dictated pace. I thought we ran at them and executed our gameplan, Havard noted. One set piece off a corner decided the game
Coughlin had another perfect chance in the first half when Keil was inside the 10-yard line. The sophomore had his nifty footwork going and everything. The problem was that a Green Dragon defender was with him the entire way and forced a shot high of the goal.
As the second half began, the Crusaders still weren't panicking. Pat Malone had a direct kick opportunity from 25 yards away, but the shot on the ground was saved by Lewisburg keeper Logan Cho, a freshman. Cho, who stopped seven shots, made a diving stab midway through the second half to keep Coughlin off the board.
With 13 minutes left, Malone took a pass inside the 10 and appeared to have a good chance at a score with Cho on the opposite side of the goal. But Dragons defender Ben Koch made a phenomenal sliding kick to push the ball out of the box.
That's just the kind of night it was for the Crusaders, who also had four corner kicks late in the game coming away empty and outshot the Dragons 13-10.
The last opportunity for Coughlin came when Dave Marriggi was dribbling inside the box and was tackled with under 3 minutes to go. It appeared as if the Crusaders were going to be awarded a penalty kick, but it wasn't called.
When we had the opportunities and they didn't go in or the keeper made a save they got flat a little bit, and then we picked it back up at the end, Havard added. I'm too far away (but) anytime your player goes down you want a penalty kick. I thought the referees called a great game and you go with the benefit of the doubt.
The Crusaders, who haven't won a state playoff game since winning it all 15 years ago, still ended a stellar campaign and the 10 seniors finish with three appearances in the state playoffs and two district championships.
I'll lose sleep over this one because I thought we should've won, Havard said. But now's a time we can sit back and reflect. It's not a bad past to reflect on for this senior class.
First half: 1. LEW, Max Reed, 6:44.
Shots: COU 13, LEW 10; Saves: COU 6 (Josh Featherman), LEW 7 (Logan Cho); Corners: COU 6, LEW 2