By Matt Michelone
HOLLIDAYSBURG — On many occasions over the course of the Penn Cambria boys’ soccer program’s history, most Panther playoff visits have ended in heartache.
Entering this season, they had only triumphed one time in playoff action — with their only win coming in 2019.
When the 2023 playoff run started with an upset of defending champion Juniata, Indians coach Jared Byler threw a challenge at the Panthers to grab the crown from them in taking on Philipsburg-Osceola on Thursday night for the District 6 Class 2A title.
It was a rollercoaster ride from falling behind early, to taking the lead, only to see that lead evaporate in the final seconds of regulation.
But they can officially declare the mission accomplished, as Nick Marshall took a feed and found the back of the net as the Panthers went on to win 4-3 in the second overtime period at Tiger Stadium.
Panthers coach Nick Wanyo got emotional when discussing the moment his program got to enjoy.
“The first half it looked like the spotlight was too big for him,” Wayno said of Marshall. “We said, ‘dude, you got to own up, step up, you’re looked on. You need to take this,’ and he did.”
Marshall couldn’t believe that he scored the game-winning tally.
“Once I saw it and got it past two defenders, I had to shoot it,” he said. “I thought I missed it, and they tried kicking it out. It feels unreal.”
Carson Long started the championship match much like he did the semifinal matchup, as he netted the first goal of the game, only to follow up with a penalty kick to give the Mounties a 2-0 lead.
“Being here is a victory,” Philipsburg-Osceola coach Ryan Long said. “My guys worked so, so, hard. I’ve known Nick (Wayno) their head coach for probably 10-12 years, played soccer with him. He’s a good guy, he has a good team. Congratulations to them.”
Coming out of the break, Andrew Dillon got the Panthers on the board with a score from Kyle Conrad. Later on, Marshall got his first score of the game to tie the match.
With a little less than five minutes left in regulation, Sean Tomlinson put the Panthers ahead with a shot to the bottom left corner.
P-O, though, would not go away as Hunter McKinney, off a corner kick, tied the game with under one minute to play.
“I said to the boys it was a great comeback,” Wanyo said. “We just need one more. We’re fine. One goal and we’re done, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Marshall took responsibility for his role in the game-tying goal, but kept positive through it all.
“It was kind of my fault,” he said. “I was on the back post. I knew we could come back and fight as long as we just kept our heads up and did what we did in the second half.”
Wanyo couldn’t be happier to see his program finally see the top of the District 6 mountain.
“I give them November off and July off,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re always working. Indoor, tournaments, outdoor, and they keep coming back. I can’t tell you how big this is for Penn Cambria in the sense of keeping kids in this game, keeping them wanting to play at Penn Cambria. This program is going to keep on growing.”
Marshall couldn’t be happier to be wearing the gold medal.
“Honestly, It doesn’t feel real,” he said. “We worked all season for this, and honestly him giving us that pushed us.”
Penn Cambria will now get the reward of playing District 4’s runner up on Tuesday night at a site and time to be announced.
SCORE BY HALVES
Penn Cambria 0 3 0 1 – 4
Philipsburg-Osceola 2 1 0 0 – 3
First Half: 1,) PO – Long (Dixon), 15:14; 2,) PO – Long (Penalty kick), 31:48
Second Half: 3,) PC – Dillon (K. Conrad), 46:18; 4,) PC – Marshall (unassisted), 59:32; 5,) Tomlinson (unassisted), 75:38; 6,) PO – McKinney (unassisted), 79:23.
Second Overtime; 7,) Marshall (K. Conrad), 99:23.
Records: Penn Cambria (12-8-1); Philipsburg-Osceola (11-8-1).
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