ANNVILLE>> Annville-Cleona's Matt Light ripped a right-footed blast in the seventh minute of a home section tilt Tuesday against Pequea Valley. The shot, while ultimately saved by Braves keeper Jeff DiEgidio, almost perfectly resembled the opening of most Little Dutchmen's contests to date this season, all but one of them victories. Instead, what followed was unlike any Annville-Cleona game of 2015.
Pequea Valley handled the Little Dutchmen, 3-0, behind a pair of goals from Josh Stoltzfus and another courtesy of Garrett Elmer, all recorded within the first 24 minutes of play. Stoltzfus netted his scores within a 3-minute span, taking advantage of a soft defense to push his team to a stunning halftime lead. While they were eventually outshot by a near 2:1 ratio, the Braves (4-4, 4-2 Section Three) held on to preserve their shutout behind DiEgidio's 10 stops.
"(Light) just tagged one early and Jeff made a great save on it. As a goalie, that gets you all the confidence in the world," Pequea Valley coach Peter Bennett said. "I think the boys were excited because we picked up a little momentum the last couple games, and we knew this woiuld be a good test for us. The boys were ready to show what we had."
The Braves held a monopoly on the field's energy over the first half, a fact that left Annville-Cleona coach Ray Kreiser feeling sour above all else. His Little Dutchmen (7-2, 4-2) eventually picked up the pace enough to post 10 second-half shots on net, but failed to best DiEgidio a single time.
"We just were flat today. No other excuse for it," Kreiser said. "We did not play well all the way around. We had a couple good games in a row and every once in a while you play flat. Against a high-quality team, like Pequea's been playing, it just snowballs."
The snowballing began when Elmer converted a right-wing throw-in into a goal less than 10 seconds after the ball returned the turf during the 19th minute. Armed with a 1-0 lead, Pequea Valley's aggression paid off three minutes later when the Braves recollected possession near midfield after a missed corner kick. Stoltzfus next knifed through Annville-Cleona's back line and touched the ball past an indecisive Koy Alwine to go up 2-0.
The ensuing Pequea attack finished in the same way.
Once on top of the section near perennial power Lancaster Mennonite, the Little Dutchmen have now fallen back into a crowded pack that includes Pequea Valley among other rivals.
"Any game, anything can happen. This kind of a game is proof that the section is up in the air," Bennett said. "Especially with three playoff spots this year, we're getting after it. And that's good for the section."
Pequea Valley 3, Annville-Cleona 0
First half — PV: Josh Stoltzfus 2, Garrett Elmer.
Second half — None.
Shots on goal — A-C 15, PV 8.
Corners — A-C 5, PV 5.
Goalies — A-C: Koy Alwine (4 saves). PV: Jeff DiEgidio (10).