Thursday, May 23, 2024

Underdog Crusaders Fall One Goal Short in State Soccer Final

Back when the temperatures were in the 90s in early August, few thought that the Lancaster Catholic Crusaders boys’ soccer team would be playing for all the marbles in the PIAA state final on November 19 at Eagle View on the campus of Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, where the thermometer did not get north of 40 degrees all game. But the improbable Crusaders gave the only-once-beaten Tigers of Northwestern Lehigh all they could handle in the PIAA Class 2A state championship game.

With a stiff northwest breeze at their backs, the Tigers broke through on a fast break goal late in the first half to go up 1-0. The Tigers dispensed of an excellent Fleetwood squad in the state semifinal game, a team that had beaten the Crusaders in the District 3 championship tilt two weeks earlier. Clearly, the District 11 champs were no slouches on the pitch. Early in the second half, the Crusaders used the freshening breeze to their advantage, scoring a nifty goal on a great centering pass from senior Will Scott to freshman Stephen Scott to knot the score at 1-1 with 20 minutes left. The Crusaders did not have many scoring looks, but Scott’s bullet into the left corner pocket stunned the Tigers for sure.

But as great championship caliber teams do in crunch time, the Tigers punched in a fluke goal just minutes later as they controversially knocked in a ball out of goalie Nate Hummer’s grasp in the box to score the go-ahead and winning goal. And the Crusaders, though they had multiple valiant pushes up field in the game’s final moments, were not able to punch in another goal against a stout Tigers’ defense

Though it was a disappointing ending to a closely fought game, the Crusaders (17-6-2) capped off a stellar season with a silver medal and runner-up trophy that very few expected of this squad that started three freshmen in the final.

“I told them back in the summer that I could not promise trophy hardware to them, but that I could promise them a lot of hard work,” a disappointed, but still affirming Coach Bryan Fossi said after the game. “Everybody on this team, whether freshman through senior, contributed in some fashion for us to get here. And it is a dream come true for all of us. I am very proud of these boys.”

In the District 3 and state finals, the Crusaders gave up two goals in each of the losses, yet it was not due to poor goalie play. Not hardly, as Nate Hummer, senior co-captain, made save after great save to keep his teammates within striking distance in both games. Given he battled a broken leg this summer and a broken nose this fall, the gritty senior saved 20 balls in the District 3 final and 17 in the state final.

“I never thought we would get to this point – I remember back when I was a freshman and a senior mentioned about going to states,” Hummer said. “I thought, ‘We are never going to do that here. That sounded just impossible.’”

The underdogs almost did what few thought possible back when it was still warm.

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness

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