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Barons survive in District opener
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
The Manheim Central boys got a monkey off their back on Monday night.
A six-year-old monkey, to be exact.
Not since 2007 had the Barons celebrated a District playoff victory.
But with goals by Colin Brubaker, Evan Pfoutz and Damon Crouse, the No. 2-seeded Central boys held on for a 3-2 victory over 15th-seeded Twin Valley in a physically-played District Three Double-A first-round game at Manheim’s Elden Rettew Field. The win improved the Barons’ record to 14-4-2.
"I’m proud of our guys. I’m really proud of our guys," Barons coach Rod Brenize said. "(Both teams) came to play. They played with a lot of heart. It’s what the playoffs are supposed to be, right? Great players are supposed to step up and play great games and have great moments. I think you saw both teams do that."
The Raiders (11-8-0) continued to show a lot of heart, even after falling behind by scores of 1-0 and 3-1. In fact, Val Mokrejs’ goal with 20:22 left in the second half was a thing of beauty while cutting the Barons’ lead to one, 3-2.
"I’ve got to give credit to the fellow who hit the ball running across to his left on the 18," Brenize said. "Are you kidding me? That was in the side of the net. It wasn’t even in the back of the net."
A couple of minutes later, Crouse nearly re-stored the Barons’ two-goal lead when he hit the left post behind Raider keeper Christian Niedenthal. Logan Crills followed up on the rebound, but Niedenthal robbed him with a diving save, one of his eight in the game.
"Their keeper (Niedenthal) made some outstanding saves to keep it tight," Brenize said.
Manheim Central keeper Logan Kready (6 saves) made his own share of tremendous plays, including grabbing the ball in a dangerous situation when Twin Valley’s Ryan Lawler chipped the ball into the box on a free kick with 10:41 remaining.
In the end, the Barons had just enough to hold on for the win, advancing them to the District quarter-final round tonight (Thursday) against the winner between 7th-seeded Wyomissing (15-4-1) and 10th-seeded Palmyra (11-6-0) at a site and time to be determined.
"How ’bout the play of our seniors tonight?," Brenize asked. "How ’bout the play of Damon Crouse? How ’bout the play of John Hershey? How ’bout the play of Logan Herr? Those guys really, really, really stepped up and made a memorable last home game in their careers. Wow, I’m almost speechless right now. I’m just trying to soak it in."
Monday’s game was the first time that the Barons had played since suffering a 1-0 loss to Hempfield in the L-L playoff quarterfinals. It was their third loss in four games, and Manheim Central hadn’t scored more than one goal in any of those defeats.
During the layoff before playing the Raiders, they focused a lot of their energy of offense.
"We used the last week we didn’t have any league games to practice, practice, practice finishing," Brenize said. "That was our main point of emphasis."
Brubaker did a nice job of finishing with 7:24 left in the opening half, heading the ball past Niedenthal on the Barons’ third corner of the half to make it 1-0. For the game, Manheim Central had a 5-3 advantage in corner kicks and they outshot the Raiders 15-8.
But with just 1:25 to go in the half, Twin Valley’s Bret Beebe got the equalizer, scoring into the right corner of the net just out of the reach of a diving Kready.
During the intermission, the Barons made adjustments to their formation and it paid quick dividends when Pfoutz scored the go-ahead tally with only 4:39 elapsed, on a feed by John Hershey from the left wing, to give the Barons a lead they never relinquished.
"At halftime, we switched up and went from two holding mids and one attacking mid to two attacking and one holding," Brenize said. "We call it our 77, which means we have two 7’s, and they’re both attacking. That’s why you saw the turn. We were getting more offensive pressure with that formation."
That offensive pressure resulted in another chance just over 10 minutes later. This time, Logan Crills sent a sweet diagonal pass into the box which Crouse ran onto and deposited into the back of the net for a 3-1 lead with 23:42 remaining in the game.
"That was a great pass, wasn’t it? Logan does very well with the assists," Brenize said.
Leading by two at that point, it was probably safe to count on a Barons’ win, especially with Tanner Brenize, one of only two sophomores named to the L-L League All-Star team last fall, back on the field following a late-season injury. With Brenize in the lineup, the Barons had allowed more than one goal just one time this season, that being a 2-0 loss to Central York, the No. 2-seeded team in the District Three Triple-A playoffs.
But Mokrejs’ goal and a few subsequent chances by the Raiders had the Barons’ fans on the edge of their seats.
"I thought we had them at 3-1," Brenize remarked, "but then after they made it 3-2, I was sweating it again."
In the end, however, the Barons held on and got the monkey off their back.
More MC SOCCER, page B-5