BELLEFONTE- It was just last season when Bellefonte boys soccer was atop the Mountain League standings competing for a district title. In a new conference with different players, the standard has been the same but the process so far has been a bit different.
Tuesday afternoon was the beginning of the success Bellefonte hopes to amass and, hopefully, eclipse from last season. The Raiders topped non-conference foe Forest Hills, 5-3, to earn its second win of the season.
“We’re starting to gel together; we lost a lot of guys from last year, particularly on the defensive end,” Bellefonte coach Scott Martz explained after the win. “Up front our guys are playing really well, really unselfish. Right now they don’t care who scores, they’re just feeding the ball to everyone.”
Bellefonte and Forest Hills both jumped out and put scores on the board early on in a fast-paced game. But it was Bellefonte’s ability to sustain the threat of scoring while making timely and efficient stops that propelled the Raiders over the Rangers.
Bellefonte immersed themselves in the action with 10 shots on goal in the first half, including five corner kicks and four goals. More importantly, Andrew Gerasenko, Collin Sharp and Brady Wertz were three different Raiders who reached the back of the net while holding the Rangers to six shots and zero corners in the opening 40 minutes.
“There’s a lot of teams that have one guy they rely on, or maybe two,” coach Martz said. “We’ve got five or six guys that can score goals on any night. And they did that tonight. Andy (Gersenko) had a couple, Collin (Sharp) had some. They just feed the ball to each other and teams don’t know what to do.”
Both teams looked to find a groove early and Bellefonte struck first as it began to settle in right away. In less than five minutes, senior forward Sharp scored to put the Raiders ahead 1-0.
But Forest Hills struck right back. Forward Toby Wilt blasted a goal from 25 yards out, straight to the right side of the net to even the game at 1-1.
Hunter Adams then notched a goal to take a 2-1 lead nine minutes in, but that would be the only time Bellefonte trailed throughout the contest. Raiders’ senior Sharp shot a ball into the back of the net for his second goal of the night off a pass from Gerasenko to knot the game at 2-2.
Following a missed opportunity from Brady Wertz to Jan Rojas-Trinidad, Wertz scored off a scramble on a Bellefonte corner kick, giving the Raiders the lead.
While Bellefonte dictated most of the offensive possessions, Forest Hills’ midfielders and forwards continued attacking. Bellefonte’s goalie only had two saves in the half, but the Rangers got off six total shots, including three in a one minute span.
After Forest Hills’ offensive miscues, Gerasenko inserted himself into the action with a solo goal of his own, increasing the lead to two.
Both teams exchanged multiple through balls, corners and shots on goal as the half concluded but the Raiders kept a 4-2 advantage.
Playing from behind, Forest Hills came out aggressively on offense to begin the second half.
In a back-and-forth physical battle, the Raiders totaled four shots to begin the half but couldn’t foster another goal due to Forest Hills’ gritty defense.
“I told the guys at halftime that they (Forest Hills) were going to come out on fire,” coach Martz said. “We have a tendency to sit back and play, not to win, but to try and not lose. They came out and hit us in the mouth early. But I told them to relax and once we scored our fifth goal we really started to relax.”
On the offensive side, Wertz was among many Raider forwards who had opportunities to score but couldn’t until Gerasenko added his second goal of the night with just over 17 minutes to play.
While Bellefonte was unable to score after adding a few more shots on goal, Forest Hills closed the gap with one final goal to close out 5-3 non-conference win for the Raiders.
Bellefonte now prepares for a matchup with Somerset, a team the Raiders haven’t seen before since it has entered the new conference. Although the game is a less than 48-hour turnaround, Bellefonte expects to play well as it continues growing with a more-than-capable roster in front of them.
While brand new teams sit in front of them, the Raiders have skilled and multi-talented players across the field who are ready to make plays at any moment. What will separate Bellefonte for Thursday’s game and the remainder of the season is how well coach Martz utilizes the strength of each player on his roster.
“The biggest thing is with these crossover games, we don’t really know what to expect,” coach Martz concluded. “Tonight (Tuesday night) we got a lot of younger guys in so experience is going to help us as the younger guys get playing time. I moved some guys in different positions tonight but other guys responded and played well.”
Bellefonte 5, Forest Hills 3.
Scoring: BE- (1st) Collin Sharp (UA), 35:29; (1st) Collin Sharp (Andrew Gerasenko), 27:35; (1st) Brady Wertz (UA), 19:03; (1st) Andrew Gersenko (UA), 11:52; (2nd) Andrew Gersenko (UA), 17:17. FH-(1st) Toby Wilt (UA), 32:09; (1st) Hunter Adams (UA), 31:25; (2nd) Jeffrey Beyer (UA), 2:36. Shots: BE-20; FH-9. Corners: BE-6; FH-2. Saves: BE-2 (Elijah Davis); FH-10. Penalties: BE-1; FH-2.
Records: Forest Hills 2-2. Bellefonte 2-1
Next game: Bellefonte at Somerset Thursday 7pm.