NEFFSVILLE — Bag that first finish in a heated boys’ soccer rivalry much like the one that Hempfield and Manheim Twp. have going and that might be enough.
Get another one some two minutes later and that’s mighty hard to overcome.
That’s what happened Monday night at Gene Kruis Stadium, where Hempfield pocketed a pair of early finishes in what seemed like rat-a-tat fashion and the Blue Streaks never could catch their Lancaster-Lebanon League Section 1 rivals.
While Drew Johnson and Kurtis Rineer netted first-half goals for Mark Ashley’s Black Knights (7-1 overall, 5-0 L-L 1) — stunning Township — Colby Smith cashed in after pouncing on a second-half giveaway as Hempfield prevailed impressively.
Tristan Green needed to make just two saves to preserve the shutout.
At the other end of the remarkably fast playing surface, Brandon Sokso piled up 10 saves to keep things as snug as they were. Had Sokso not made two biggies late in the first half — including one with his feet — things would have been worse.
“It’s always a battle whenever we play Township, there’s such a rivalry here over the years back and forth,” Ashley admitted. “You always feel that whoever scores first can get that momentum and keep it rolling, and then to get that second one on the heels of that first one — I don’t know what the time was, but it was like two or three minutes — I think it did take the wind out of their sails for a while.
“They did play a little shell-shocked, I thought, right after that second goal.”
Quite frankly, most sides would have been floored after yielding a pair of scores in the opening seven minutes — particularly the kind the Knights tossed at Township.
Freed for a run up the right flank by freshman Ian Graham, the opportunistic Johnson was probably 40 yards from goal and outside Kruis’ football lines when he served up a ball with 4:38 gone that kept sailing and sailing and sailing until it snuggled inside the left side of the net for the game’s first score.
Then, some 2:15 later, the scoreboard was flashing 2-0 once Rineer connected for a headball score after Daniel Hester’s heave from the right tough found Smith’s gourd in front. Even Ashley couldn’t have designed those two scores.
“Sometimes it’s not a matter of drawing it up, it’s just the guys being in the right place at the right time and executing,” Ashley admitted. “Seeing the opportunity, and they did that. I was proud of them. It was a good team effort.”
Conversely, no one could have defended Johnson’s deep bell-ringer. And the second score would have been mighty difficult to prevent as well.
“Missed the mark,” Township skipper Kevin Baker said. “That’s one of those things when you talk about the score line versus the flow of the game and it’s closer than a 3-0 game, I think. I think Hempfield deserved the win, I thought they played well.
“I think it was closer than a 3-0 game — if we clean up our mistakes. That’s what it comes down to is cleaning up our mistakes and getting better from it.”
Of course, there was one of those ‘what if’ moments that could have changed the score line and the flow of the game. And it, too, came early.
Right after Johnson connected, Township was moving forward in a hurry on an odd-man rush when Hempfield’s Zach Wilson made a sliding ball tackle, short-circuiting the whole works. The Streaks, in fact, had runners on both flanks waiting.
Waiting for a ball that never came.
“Guy on the left was wide open,” Baker lamented. “That’s how it fell for us this game. Those chances weren’t going our way. The luck wasn’t with us tonight, if you will.
“It’s those little things that just don’t go for you sometimes,” Baker continued. “Tonight was one of those nights.”
“He made a big play on that,” Ashley said. “All of our backs really played tremendous tonight, so I was really proud of them.”
While the Streaks watched Green gobble up an Andrea DiSomma rip midway through the second half, any intrigue ended some five minutes later when Kyle Lando coughed up the ball deep in his own end and Smith latched on.
Two breaths later, he rolled a shot under Sokso to make it 3-0.
“It was great to have Colby finishing like that. And getting on the board early really takes some of that pressure off,” Ashley continued. “I think we play better when we’re relaxed and not feeling like, ‘We gotta get a goal, we gotta get a goal.’”
That certainly was the case Monday night at Kruis.
“Hats off to Hempfield. They played really well,” Baker commended. “They pressed us well, but the beautiful thing is we get to play them again in a few weeks.”
And whoever gets that first finish …
Hempfield 3, Manheim Twp. 0
Hempfield 2-1 — 3
Manheim Twp 0-0 — 0
Scoring: 1. H-Drew Johnson (Ian Graham), 4:38; 2. H-Kurtis Rineer (Colby Smith, Daniel Hester), 6:53; 3. H-Smith (unassisted), 64:57.
Shots: H 14-5. Corner kicks: Both sides with 4. Saves: Hempfield (Tristan Green), 2; Manheim Twp. (Brandon Sokso), 10.