Lower Dauphin applied the brakes to Palmyra's five-game winning streak, stopping the orange and black 3-0 under the lights at In The Net on Tuesday.
The Falcons scored 2:03 into action and tacked on a pair of late insurance goals to stay in contention for the Mid-Penn Conference Keystone Division championship. Palmyra, meanwhile, drops to 10-5 overall and 8-4 in the league with the setback. The Cougars had won seven of eight since a 2-0 loss to LD on Sept. 17.
"We were still trying to win the league," Palmyra head coach Craig Tyrrell said. "We figured if we won this we would still be in a good spot to challenge for the title. That was the main thing. We are probably out of the race with that loss."
Falcon sophomore Matthew Canis netted the game-winner moments after the opening whistle, converting Kevin Mondi's centering pass for a 1-0 lead. The midfielder gained control of the ball in the box, chipping a head-high volley past Palmyra goalkeeper Tanner Yaw at 37:57.
"It gave them confidence," added Tyrrell of LD's quick tally. "We kind of settled down (later in the first half) and started knocking the ball and being patient with it. We were still right there. We realized that early goal didn't really kill us, but it hurt a little bit."
The visitors generated the game's first four shots on goal before senior midfielder Kameron Bush nearly put Palmyra on the board with a diving header in the 15th minute. The ball easily beat Falcon keeper Isaiah Pettis but bounced out-of-bounds after caroming off the far post.
Lower Dauphin (12-4 overall and 10-2 Keystone) ended the first half with a 6-1 edge in shots on goal. Yaw made several stellar saves to keep the Cougars in striking distance, including denying a Nick Sincavage-to-Canis header combination before the break.
"I just told them we made a couple little mistakes," Tyrrell said. "We dominated the game in terms of possession. Every time we gave it away to them, they gave it back to us, but we just weren't disciplined enough in the attacking third. We weren't being patient at all in that area."
Palmyra never sustained consistent offensive pressure in the second half despite controlling the midfield with its short passing attack. A lot of that had to do with the extra attention LD gave to Cougar scorers Robby Hanosek and Griffin Mitchell.
"We knew we had to stop the two guys up top - they're very dangerous," explained Falcons head coach Gerry Lynch. "We knew that if we could take away those two guys, we had a good chance.
LD's last two goals came in a four-minute span late in the contest. Sincavage made it 2-0 on a breakaway in the 72nd minute. The junior striker reversed field following a free kick from Palmyra, rolling an unassisted right-footed grounder past a charging Yaw.
J.T. Donnelly netted the final score in the 76th minute following a scrum in front of the net. Hanosek almost spoiled the clean sheet with a header off the crossbar with 42 seconds remaining. Pettis finished with two saves; while Yaw checked in with eight.
"We knew to keep pace (in the Keystone) we had to beat them," added Lynch. "It's never an easy place to come, and when Palmyra plays Lower Dauphin it's always going to be a battle. We knew that, so I thought we approached it well and had the right attitude."
Palmyra finishes the regular season at Middletown (Thursday) and home against Hershey (Tuesday). The Cougars entered the week ranked No. 5 in the District Three Class AA boys' soccer rankings. The top 16 qualify for the postseason.
"I'm proud of them so far," said Tyrrell. "Hopefully we can take care of these two games and that will propel us into districts. That's our goal."