MYERSTOWN – No matter how you put it, there’s nothing like scoring the game-winning goal in a big rivalry game. Even if you do nothing for the rest of that particular season - or even your career - you will always be remembered for that moment.
For one Elco junior, that single shot to the back of the net is now part of a historic rivalry.
Mason Bennetch was the hero for the Raiders, putting away a perfect finish with 15:07 left, coming off a perfect cross from Clay Hain, giving Elco a 2-1 win over Cedar Crest on Saturday to win the Ritter-Hoffman Cup for the second consecutive season.
“It compares to the game-winner I had against Palmyra, but this feels just as good,” Bennetch said. “Clay beat his man. He did what he had to do and I did what I had to do when I finished the ball. We have a great offense this year.”
The win pulls the Raiders to within one of the Falcons in the series, which now stands at 15-14-1 all-time.
Before Elco took the coveted cup back last season, preceding a tie in 2014, it was Cedar Crest who kept the trophy for three straight years.
Raiders coach Kirk Keppley says it feels good to keep the cup in Myerstown for another year, but he knows it’s never easy to do.
“It’s a battle every year. It doesn’t matter if one team’s up or one team’s down. For this game everyone’s up for it,” he said.
And the 2016 edition of this rivalry game was no different. Elco saw a 1-0 lead going into the half slip away with just 0:10 left, thanks to a goal from the Falcons’ Collin May, who headed a Chad Ryland corner kick into the Raider net.
But the slight setback didn’t discourage Keppley’s team one bit.
“I think Joe Ginder, our centerback, said it best,” Keppley said. “He said, ‘Guys we got this. We got the win. Just calm down and we’ll be fine,’ and we just talked about getting the ball forward and out wide. That’s what they did. Nobody panicked.”
Seth Noll was the one who put Elco on the board first with 22:20 left in the half, off a perfect through ball from Adler Brown.
The Falcons certainly had their chances, however, nearly taking the lead early in the second half when Jaiden Melendez missed out on a golden opportunity, shooting the ball just over the cross bar, trying to finish a rebound attempt with the ball loose inside the 18.
But the Raiders were able to hold their ground despite being outshot 6-4 by Cedar Crest. The Falcons also had a 5-3 advantage in corners.
And a big win like this comes at a perfect time for Elco, feeling good about heading into its huge date with current Section 3 leader and defending champion Lancaster Mennonite on Tuesday on the road. Then a home match with Donegal follows Thursday.
“We were hoping to be 3-1 and that’s exactly where we’re at. Next week is huge because we have Mennonite and Donegal, which is another good team as well,” Keppley said. “Mennonite will be a good match on their turf and we’re going to have to match them in skill, speed, everything. I think that’s going to show who’s going to take the section even though it’s early.”