SOMERSET --- The odds were designed to be stacked against District 3 runner-up Biglerville High in the PIAA Class A Boys' Soccer Tournament.
The Canners were sent west - far to the west - for Tuesday's first round. They went to a location where plowed snow lined the field and played an opponent, the Windber Ramblers, about which coach Jebb Nelson learned little.
And it didn't matter.
Led by two goals from Mario Ortega and two assists by Armando Rojo, the Canners (16-7-1) tallied three times in the opening half and breezed to a 3-0 shutout of the District 5 champion Ramblers at Somerset High School.
Time will tell how much farther the Canners, stuck in the western half of the bracket, have to travel, though Nelson believes Tuesday's win will bring Biglerville closer to home for its ensuing games. Regardless, Biglerville passed the first test, a triumph in downright cold conditions at a distant locale.
"We've always lost in the first round of states whenever we've made it, so that was one of the things we kept telling them in practice," Nelson said. "'You have the opportunity to make history here for our school. You get by that first round and it's about what we do from there on out.'"
Biglerville will face Greensburg Central Catholic, which scored in the final five minutes Tuesday for a 2-1 triumph over Bishop McCort, in Saturday's quarterfinal round at a time and site to be announced. Greensburg was the District 7 runner-up.
It will face a Canners
"We know we have the speed. We know we have the skill level to get it down there and keep it down there," Nelson said. "That's what we have been doing the last couple of games."
After four shots toward the Ramblers' goal, Ortega grounded a shot past Windber netminder Garrett Walerysiak into the far left corner with 31:26 left in the first half. The goal followed a steal off the foot of a Rambler defender, and Ortega said, "I probably took a second more than I should have (to place the shot), but it worked."
However, Ortega saved his better effort for the Canners' second goal, his 12th of the season.
Given a corner kick, the Canners' Cole Herzing executed a short inbounds kick to Rojo. He turned and lofted a short line drive which Ortega one-timed with his left foot past a surprised Walerysiak into the center of the net.
"At practice, that's a set play we do, and it happened," Ortega said. "Probably three or four times, it's worked (this season)."
Added Nelson: "They were all pinched to the middle and, up here, they've never seen that play before, so we were like, 'Why not run it?'"
Rojo then notched his second assist of the night with 2:34 remaining in the first half as his pass set up freshman Carlos Esquivias' 15-yard drive past Walerysiak.
The teams then played a scoreless second half. The Canners had better opportunities, but Windber gained a golden chance when freshman Cody Duca stole the ball and had an open look at the goal with 20:31 remaining. He was unable to control the ball well enough to keep it from drifting to goalkeeper Gerry Lua, who finished with two easy saves.
So, with a win over a district champion in hand, the Canners will continue in the western half of the PIAA bracket, chalking Tuesday's game up to experience.
"I didn't care too much for the ride out here," Nelson said, "but it's all right."
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BIGLERVILLE 3, WINDBER 0
Biglerville -- 3 0 -- 3
Windber -- 0 0 -- 0
First Half -- 1. Big, Mario Ortega; 2. Big, Ortega (Armando Rojo); 3. Big, Carlos Esquizias (Rojo).
Shots On Goal -- Big 11, Win 2.
Corners -- Big 5, Win 1.
Goalies -- Biglerville, Gerry Lua (2 saves); Windber, Garrett Nalerysiak (8 saves).