Conemaugh Township boys bump off North Star to open District 5-1A playoffs

Oct. 27—DAVIDSVILLE — Already up a goal during the first half of Thursday's District 5 Class 1A boys soccer quarterfinal, No. 2 seed Conemaugh Township saw chance after chance either sail over or past the goal, or get stopped by North Star goalkeeper Tristen Ash.

Then 2022 all-state selection Dylan Giffin connected with a header off a throw-in during the 26th minute to trigger a three-goals-in-three-minutes cluster as the Indians bounced the Cougars 7-2 at Conemaugh Township Area High School.

Conemaugh Township (17-1-1) then got goals from Jackson Sotosky (27th minute) and Caven Miller (28th) to build a 4-0 lead before North Star's Parker Scherer halted the run with a goal of his own in the 29th minute.

The damage was already done, however, thanks in part to Conemaugh Township juggling its formation to bring the starting goalkeeper up front.

"We have one of our best players (Sotosky) in goal. We brought him out," Conemaugh Township coach Fred Mainhart said. "He adds pressure as a striker. Unfortunately, our goalkeeper from the start of year has a major concussion and can't play any more. We're trying a keeper-by-committee approach and Isaiah Diguardi came in (to relieve Sotosky in the 23rd minute) and we've been working with him and try to get him up to speed.

"Jackson is a great player. He puts pressure on the opposing defense and he can score. He knows how to bury it."

North Star, which saw a few chances flutter away when it was still 1-0, couldn't rebound after the sudden outburst.

"It was absolutely the turning point," Cougars coach Tim Byrd said. "As soon as we got down 4-1, they just didn't have the fight in them after the first half. We tried to come back, but we just couldn't match their offense."

Conemaugh Township continued to stack on its lead in the second half when Max Malicki, who booted in the Indians' first goal off a feed from Rocco Hagan during the second minute, sent a shot past Ash in the 46th minute.

Sotosky made it 6-1 during the 56th minute when Conemaugh Township peppered the goal area with high-traffic attempts from a corner kick until the Indians junior was able to bump a shot over the line.

North Star (9-8-2) cut a goal from the lead in the 63rd minute as Bryce Frombach's one-touch blast off of Scherer's far-post crossing pass beat Diguardi.

"The team has improved a lot over this year," Byrd said. "I gotta give 'em a lot of credit. They came out for a fight and if we're going to lose to a team, we're glad it's (Conemaugh Township). We have a lot of respect for them. These guys have been putting in the work all year and have improved vastly."

A long through ball to Sotosky capped the scoring — and his hat trick — as he boomed an attempt to the top right corner of the net.

With the win, Conemaugh Township welcomes defending District 5-1A champion McConnellsburg on Tuesday in a semifinal match. The Spartans handed the Indians their lone loss this season, taking a 7-2 decision on Sept. 11 in Davidsville. Third-seeded McConnellsburg topped Rockwood on Thursday.

"It's going to be a challenge," Mainhart said. "We know they're a good team. Defending district champs. Well-coached.

"We look forward to it. We're not shying away from it. We know we have a great opportunity here on our field. We're going to get ready over the next four days to play them."

Shawn Curtis is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5085. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnCurtis430.