By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
HERSHEY -- Nick Rieck found the ball at midfield and wasted no time sending a through ball to Tulpehocken's talented Brandon Daub. The senior Trojan dribbled it to just within a few yards of Lewisburg goalie Logan Cho and made a move at the last possible moment.
Daub slid and made a terrific shot to the far post just past Cho, netting a goal just 1:14 into overtime.
And just like that, Lewisburg's season came to an unfortunate end.
The Trojans scored two unanswered goals to defeat the Green Dragons at Henry Hershey Field at Milton Hershey School on Saturday afternoon, 2-1, in overtime in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals.
For the first 75 minutes of the game, Lewisiburg (19-3-1) kept the District 3 champion Tulpehocken (21-6) out of the net.
Both Daub and Robert Ekvall got deep into the Green Dragons' end and put pressure on Lewisburg's back line and freshman goalie Cho.
"Their plan of the game was to run everything through those two guys (Daub and Ekvall). They had a little on the outside. They were willing to come forward and be dangerous time to time, but clearly the game plan was they came in to run the ball through those two," Lewisburg coach Skip Kratzer said.
Ekvall prevented the shutout loss late in the second half. With 5:35 left to play, Ekvall took a loose ball down the right side of the field between the boxes and both Cho and Lewisburg's Kerry Shutt tried to swarm to the ball. As Cho slid and tried to grab it, Ekvall made a fantastic play to chip the ball up over Cho and fans in attendance watched with anxiety as the slow roller inched towards the far post and finally rolled in to tie the game up at 1-all.
It was a great heads-up play from Ekvall, a sophomore Trojan, to keep the game going and essentially force overtime.
"We talked all long going into this game, you have to score more than one. You can't sit back," Kratzer said. "We've done a really good job of protecting a 1-0 lead, but at this level of play, any given time there's somebody on other side willing to step up and put one in. It's disappointing."
Through the first half, both Lewisburg and Tulpehocken played even. Both recorded seven shots and both had three on goal. In the second half though, the Green Dragons finally broke through with a score.
Standing about 20 yards out to the near side, Bronson Ferster had a free kick and sent a great pass down inside of the goal box to Udoka Eze. The senior perfectly headed it to the near post past Tulpehocken goalie Derek Kissling with 29:24 to play in the half as he proceeded to run down the sideline blowing the Lewisburg fans kisses to celebrate the goal.
"We started attacking the outside on them and started trying to exploit that. I felt we had an advantage," Kratzer said of the key to scoring. "We made a change there at half with Udoka, bringing him outside a little bit more, making him demand that deep sweep to slide out on us and it went well.
"That definitely made a difference for us. Unfortunately, we gave one up there towards the back end."
Both Lewisburg and Tulpehocken missed opportunities throughout the game to score.
Lewisburg's best look came with 13:50 to play when Max Reed took a through ball down to just a few yards to the left side of the goal and tried to sneak a shot in to the far post, only for it go just a yard to the left.
Defensively, the Green Dragons didn't make it easy for the Trojans. Cho recorded six saves in the loss and for majority of the game, whenever Daub or Ekvall got down to Lewisburg's end, the back line played solid.
With 12:20 to play, Kerry Shutt came up with a huge save for Lewisburg. After Cho came out of the goal to try and make a play, the Trojans managed to get the loose ball and as Daub fired a shot from about three yards out, Shutt stepped in and had a header to knock the ball out of harm's way and prevent a goal.
"The boys played really well in the back. I thought we did a real good job for majority of the game. We got ourselves caught in the last couple minutes of the game flat-footed and unfortunately, games like this at this caliber, you make a mistake and the other team is there to capitalize on it," Kratzer said.
"We got ourselves here (to the state quarterfinals), which is great, but disappointed to not be going a little further. We thought we had the team."