Warriors earn first District win since 2009

By on October 24, 2018

Freshman Jacob Smith scores two goals in 3-0 shutout

Warwick senior Ben Pennypacker (right) battles an Ephrata player for the ball in Tuesday’s District Three 4A first-round playoff game. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Warwick senior Ben Pennypacker (right) battles an Ephrata player for the ball in Tuesday’s District Three 4A first-round playoff game. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Three words were music to the ears of Warwick boys soccer coach Gordy Cowher on Tuesday night.

See you tomorrow.

Cowher exchanged that phrase with his players as they were leaving the Grosh Field playing surface, and the translation was, their season would continue in the District Three 4A playoffs.

“Those are three beautiful words, absolutely” Cowher said. “Three more practices with this group of kids is a nice thing.”

The 5th-seeded Warriors, in fact, guaranteed themselves at least one more game, getting two goals from freshman Jacob Smith and another from senior David Dieal on their way to a 3-0 shutout of No. 12 Ephrata in a District Three 4A opening-round game in Lititz.

It marked the first time since 2009 that the Warwick boys (12-4) got in the win column in Districts, punching their ticket to Saturday’s quarter-finals at 4th-seeded Cumberland Valley at 3 p.m.

And it was also the first time this season that the Mounts had allowed more than one goal in a game.

“(Warwick) is a quality team and they can move the ball,” said Ephrata coach Rob Deininger, whose squad finished 12-6-1 despite graduating most of their offensive attack from the team that placed third in Districts and went to States in 2017. “But I was very pleased with what we’ve done this year.”

What the Mounts did during the regular season was take Warwick into OT before Robbie Heckman scored to give the Warriors a 1-0 non-league victory back on Sept. 15.

In the re-match, Ephrata discarded the defensive style of play and came out of the gates on the attack against their back-yard rivals. And it nearly paid off, as the Mounts were awarded a corner kick in the first minute of the contest and then speedy junior forward Tyler Shue fired a shot toward the right corner which was saved by Warrior keeper Drew Stief.

“We came out pretty strong,” Deininger said. “Against Cocalico (in an L-L quarterfinal loss), we played well at the end of the game and we continued here in the first 15, 20 minutes.”

Cowher felt fortunate that his team was able to weather the early storm from Ephrata.

“It was so weird,” he said. “We just came out and we weren’t there and we were lucky because they could have easily put two in. But we did weather it and then we really settled down.”

Things began to swing in the Warriors’ favor after Dieal found a gap in front of the Mounts’ net with just over 29 minutes left in the opening half and blasted a shot at Ephrata’s Cole Hummel (5 saves). The Mounts’ keeper made the initial save and then Dieal fired the rebound wide right.

“They got their feet underneath them and they put some pressure on us,” Deininger said.

Although Dieal just missed on that opportunity, he made no mistake just two minutes later, as Heckman made a beautiful cross from the right wing and Dieal one-timed it into the back of the net to give Warwick a 1-0 lead with 27:09 left in the half.

“The last half of the season, (Robbie)’s really evolved into understanding how to play that 9 position,” Cowher said. “It’s a very difficult position. It’s kinda like a center in basketball. You’re playing with your back to the play a lot. So his evolvement is a big reason why we’re playing better offensive soccer right now.”

Heckman wasn’t the only one on his game for the Warriors. Dieal combined with Warwick’s holding mids Trey and Trysten George and Evan Troop to control play between the backs and forwards, while assisting in a solid possession game.

“Our midfield has been a big catalyst,” Cowher said. “We have a nice solid back four, we have good forwards, but that midfield is always a key.”

Although the Warriors created the majority of the scoring opportunities in the first half, Ephrata put together a counter attack with about 1:30 left in the half, and Mounts’ freshman Caleb Gaston got a golden scoring opportunity, but Stief (5 saves) came 10 to 15 yards out of the net to make the stop, and it remained a 1-0 lead for Warwick at the break.

In the second half, with Ephrata knowing it had to push for an equalizer, they made some adjustments in their formation, pushing seniors Alex Auker and Jaron Wenger up more into the attack.

“The problem was, (Warwick) took over the midfield. In the second half, after five minutes we went for it,” Deininger said, “and we moved some guys around and attacked, and unfortunately left the back open a few times, which came back to bite us. Nobody’s ever scored two on us, but we never gambled like this. And when it’s do-or-die, whether you lose 5-0 or 1-0, it doesn’t matter — you’re done. We gambled and they took advantage of it.”

With just over 34:00 left, Heckman nearly capitalized when his blast was ticketed for the upper right corner before Hummel made the stop.

Just over four minutes later, Heckman hit the post and then Dieal’s rebound shot was wide left.

Meanwhile, the Warriors’ defensive unit, consisting of center backs Broden Price and Jalen Stewart, along with a rotation of outside backs Ben Pennypacker, Joey Knecht, Ryan Keenan, and Chase Lieberman, cut off Ephrata’s passing lanes in front of the net and frustrated the Mounts coming down the wings.

Although the Ephrata boys mustered back-to-back corners — the second of those with 23:40 left — they weren’t able to convert. For the game, Ephrata had a 4-3 advantage in corner kicks, and the Warriors had a slim 8-6 edge in shots. Boston Libhart added a save for the Warwick boys.

Finally, the Warriors got a little bit of breathing room when Jay Destinoble fed a nice diagonal pass in front to Smith, who buried a shot into the lower left corner with 14:34 left, making it 2-0.

Then just over three minutes later, the Warrior freshman did it again, this time from a tough angle, when his long-range shot from the right wing was perfectly placed out of the reach of Hummel into the left side of the net, pushing the advantage to 3-0 and all but clinching it with 11:23 left.

“(Up) 1-0 is never a safe lead, and even when we went up 2-0, I just wasn’t sure,” Cowher said. “But I thought our backs played really well tonight and I thought if we got a second goal, it would be tough (for Ephrata) to come back. Their keeper is good and their defense is good. This is the first game all year they’ve given up more than a goal. So to put in three … I think it will give our kids a little bit of confidence moving forward into Saturday too.”

Tomorrow … er, Wednesday, they began preparations for that next game in Districts.

“This has been a special group,” Cowher said, “the way they support each other, the way they’ve been there for each other and it’s just a nice group. A real nice group.”

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