Janesch Nikolas knew from two previous matches it was going to be a difficult task to break through Danville's backline. He also knew from experience that breaking through the line was just the first part.
Throughout the course of the season, Danville's defense was difficult to score against. The Ironmen posted 11 shutouts and gave up only two goals twice, splitting those contests.
Nikolas knew all this. And instead of driving the ball into the Danville zone and attempting to take on one of the area's best keepers, he pulled up, sent a lofting shot toward the box and caught the keeper off his line.
Nikolas' goal, which came midway through the first half, held as the Dragons possessed the ball for nearly the entire second half en route to a 1-0 win over Danville at Loyalsock. The win advances Lewisburg into the District 4 Class AA finals.
"Calvin Reif played a great ball back to me," Nikolas said. "I got it behind the keeper. I think he was caught off his line. I don't know if I could do it again, but it went in."
Reif pulled up as the Dragons' offense marched closer to the Danville net. Once the defense was in front of him, Reif sent a quick pass over to Nikolas, who sent a beautiful shot over the keeper's head for the game's lone score.
"He's a great keeper," Nikolas said of Danville's Chris Dempsey. "I know he likes to come out into the field. He's really aggressive and we talked about looking to put it over top of him."
Nikolas said Lewisburg wanted to attack from distance in an effort to catch Dempsey off his line. The plan worked midway through the first half when Nikolas sent his shot over Dempsey, who went out to stop the Dragons' charging offense.
Lewisburg, facing Danville for a third time, broke down Danville's defense with long passes up the wing and a strong, precise passing game inside the box.
Jacob Lightman nearly gave the Dragons an extra goal to cushion their first-half lead when he forced two difficult saves by Dempsey. Lightman took a feed from Daniel Cole, giving him nothing but an empty goal in front of him. In an effort to keep the ball down, Lightman put a little too much muscle on the shot, floating it over the goal. His second effort came on a shot outside the 18-yard box which was controlled by Dempsey in less than ideal conditions.
Any chance of a Danville comeback in the second half was buried as Lewisburg controlled the majority of possession. After posting three shots in the first half, with two on goal, Danville failed to even take a shot in the second half.
"Where our momentum is gaining is we're getting better at keeping a zero on the other side of the scoreboard," Lewisburg coach Skip Kratzer said. "That's what we talked about coming into the game. I told the team a 1-0 win is still a win."
Porter Snowden had the best chance of breaking through for the Ironmen when he intercepted a ball at midfield. He then pushed through a tackle and appeared to be in a position to send a ball into the box, but before Snowden could connect with the cross Kerry Shutt hustled down the wing to block the attempt and clear the ball.
L-Nikolas Janesch (Calvin Reif), 20:23.
Shots: D 3 L 13. Shots on goal: D 2 L 6. Corners: D 4 L 6. Saves: D (Chris Dempsey) 5 L (Logan Cho) 2. Fouls: D 11 L 13. Cards: D none. L none.
Records: Danville (16-2-1). Lewisburg (16-2-1)
Next: Lewisburg D4 Class AA Championship TBA.