Knights shut out MC in L-L quartersBoys’ Soccer

By on October 19, 2011

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor bmorgan.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

The goal posts are often times a keeper’s best friend and they were for Manheim Central’s Nick Johnston on Tuesday night.

But even with Hempfield hitting the iron a couple of times on Tuesday, the Black Knights’ Kyle Bitterman still managed to score twice as the Section One champs shut out the Barons 2-0 in an L-L League quarterfinal playoff game at Warwick High in Lititz.

"We played hard," Manheim Central skipper Matt Schwartz said. "Hempfield’s very talented. They’ve got a lot of good players and they put you under a lot of pressure, particularly with balls over the top. So our backs were running a lot of the night."

With the District Three Triple-A playoffs getting underway next Monday, Oct. 24, the Barons (13-6), who finished runner-up in Section Three, will look to put their loss to Hempfield behind them as they prepare for their next game.

Part of their struggles on Tuesday came from not being able to generate a consistent offensive attack against the Knights’ defense. Hempfield outshot the Barons 18-5 and had a lopsided 15-2 advantage in scoring opportunities.

"At times, we struggled to keep the ball and we turned the ball over with errant passes," Schwartz said, "which naturally put us under additional pressure, and at the same time, prevented us from building any kind of consistent offensive push."

That made Bitterman’s first of two tallies with 6:13 left in the opening half a key blow in the game. Off a restart, the senior midfielder struck a ball from 22 yards out and placed it around an MC wall inside the left post.

It remained a 1-0 game until late in the second half, when Zach Lockley sent a pass from the right corner to Bitterman, who punched it past Johnston’s left side.

The Knights also had a 4-3 advantage in corner kicks, but Johnston came up with several big stops among his eight saves to help keep it close for the Barons.

"All things considered, our backs and goalkeeper did a nice job of eliminating chances," Schwartz said. "Nick made a number of nice saves. I think he must have kissed the goal posts a couple of times before the night started. They rang a bunch of them off posts and crossbars and the guys did a nice job of clearing those quickly."

MC senior Bryant Myer had one of Central’s best chances when he tested Hempfield keeper Billy Heavner, but the Knights managed to preserve the shutout.

"I think we had two good looks, one that required a nice save that we weren’t close enough to be able to put away the rebound," Schwartz said.

Last week, the Barons still controlled their own destiny in the race for the Section title, even after suffering a 2-0 loss to first-place Garden Spot on Monday, Oct. 10.

But the Spartans’ (12-2-1 L-L, 37 points) win over Lebanon, coupled with Central’s 2-0 loss to Donegal last Wednesday, Oct. 12, enabled Garden Spot to lock up the Section crown.

Manheim Central (12-3-0, 36 points) completed its regular-season slate on Thursday with a 3-0 shutout of ELCO, leaving them one point shy of the Spartans.

The Barons scored all three of their goals in the first half in their victory over the Raiders, led by Josh Kaiser who scored two. Landon Brenize also found the back of the net for the Central boys, who held the edge in shots (12-3) and corner kicks (4-2).

Keeper Nick Johnston had three saves.

Unfortunately for the Barons, they were unable to connect on their opportunities against Donegal, and the Indians scored a goal in each half to pull off the victory.

Although Central built a 9-7 advantage in shots, Indians’ keeper Benjamin Service stopped all nine shots he faced to preserve the shutout. The Manheim Central boys also had a 6-3 advantage in corner kicks.

Johnston finished with five stops between the pipes for the Barons. More MC SOCCER, page B-6