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Blazers stay hot with District win over Barons
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Manheim Central boys soccer coach Matt Schwartz and his assistants were at a loss for words with the Barons’ players at halftime of their game on Monday night.
The Central boys were executing the game plan, but yet found themselves trailing 2-0 to Lancaster Mennonite, and Schwartz didn’t know what else he could say to his players.
"There was so little to talk about at halftime," Schwartz said, "because I thought we had done so many things so well that it was just, ‘Fellas, keep doing more of the same.’"
The one thing that the newly-crowned Lancaster-Lebanon League champion Blazers might have done better than Central was finish their chances, as they scored on two of their three first-half shots to grab a 2-0 lead at the break and went on to earn a 3-1 win in a District Three Double-A first-round playoff game at Manheim’s Elden Rettew Field.
Unfortunately for Manheim Central, what Schwartz described as their most complete game of the season ended with disappointment, as the Barons closed out the campaign with a 13-7 overall record.
"Our first 10 minutes were unbelievable," Schwartz remarked. "I thought our guys were unbelievable. On a night where we knew we had to come out and establish possession, establish tempo, establish ball control against a team who is clearly on a hot streak, we couldn’t have asked for more."
The Blazers (15-7), indeed, weren’t a typical 13th seed, and the Barons, even as the number-4 seed in the District tournament, knew that they were going to have their hands full.
"About a week and a half, maybe even two weeks ago, (LMH coach Fred Winey) and I both without each other knowing it, were looking at (the seeds) and saw the train wreck that was about to happen, or looked like it was getting ready to happen, and we both were just shaking our heads because we knew what kind of teams each other had," Schwartz said. "And the fact that one of us was not going to get to the second round of the tournament, that’s ridiculous."
Manheim Central started the game clearly focused on getting to that second round. But without notice, the Blazers caught the Barons in transition and CJ Sturges’ shot caromed off the underside of the crossbar and came down over the goal line to give his squad a 1-0 lead in the 9th minute.
"I was sitting here talking to (the coaches)," Schwartz said, and like, ‘Well, we weathered this 10 minutes … darn, there’s a goal.’ At the same time, like we were talking about (in the post-game huddle), this is a classic match between the two of us where an unbelievable goal turns out to be the difference. An unbelievable goal, depending on whose side your on, at an unbelievably perfect time or the complete worst time possible."
Junior Damon Crouse nearly got the equalizer for the Barons a short time later, but his laser missed the crossbar behind LMH keeper Jacob Hertzler by just inches.
"(If Damon) finishes that, and (Mennonite’s shot) goes over — it’s essentially the same shot — it’s a completely different ball game," Schwartz remarked. "We put all kinds of doubt in their mind and energize ourselves. That’s a huge thing."
Instead, LMH sophomore Ian Burkhart gave the Blazers a 2-0 lead in the 21st minute.
Central again threatened in the final minute when they received a corner kick with just :37 remaining in the half, but the Barons’ header was off the mark and the Blazers took a two-goal lead into the intermission.
"We talked about it before the game — the big part of tonight was going to be coming out, (getting) sustained pressure and finishing our chances," Schwartz said. "(LMH) had three shots, two goals. We had the ball the majority of the time and had created a couple of opportunities. Unfortunately, it’s kinda been the theme all year. You can dodge bullets here and there with that regular season, but we’ve emphasized it, we’ve talked about it … You know that sooner or later, it’s going to come back and get you. It just wasn’t to be."
For the game, LMH outshot the Barons 10-7 and Viktor Kaltenstein’s blast just inside the right post after running onto a pass down the right wing gave the Blazers a commanding 3-0 lead with 35:01 left in the second.
It might have been worse, but Kready (seven saves) twice robbed Burkhart from close range, and he showed quickness in keeping Kaltenstein’s shot out of the net on a corner kick with just over 22:00 to go.
"(Logan) played a great match," Schwartz said.
Each team finished with four corner kicks, including three apiece in the second half.
Finally, Central got on the scoreboard with 16:30 left, as Crouse sent a crossing pass into the box from the right wing, and Nathanael Erk was there to one-time it into the right corner of the net to make it 3-1.
Less than a minute later, senior Jackson Crouse nearly made it a one-goal deficit, but his rocket was just wide left of the net.
The Barons had two more corner chances to cut into LMH’s lead, one of those following a shot by Cris Riehl which nearly beat Hertzler, but Mennonite was able to hold on for the win and advance to play 12th-seeded Annville-Cleona (14-4-1) in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
"One of the big things that we constantly talk about is always finishing strong, finishing stronger than you start," Schwartz said. "We had our best complete finish of the year on our last game of the season, we scored the first goal of the year in our first game, we scored the last goal of the year in our last game. And when you score the last goal, you finish with a little bit more momentum. When you’re down 3-0, realistically, what are you going to do? You still fight for that last goal." More MC SOCCER, page B-4