DENVER>> Of all the reasons one could offer to explain Saturday's 2-1 win over Elizabethtown as the greatest in Annville-Cleona boys soccer history, there was only one, the most important one, incapable of being entirely captured by words.
Forget any mention of snapping the Bears' undefeated season, talk of taking down the reigning league champions or reference to the Little Dutchmen's first win ever in the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs. Making history Saturday meant experiencing victory in an uninhibited mass of red and white humanity; cheering, jumping, exclaiming and celebrating like never before.
The man leading that group can tell you.
"Sheer emotion and joy," said Annville-Cleona coach Ray Kreiser, now in his 20th year. "There was nothing but joy in that circle. I don't even know how to describe it right now."
And how could he?
Describing an upset of Elizabethtown, which had not lost a league game in more than two years, would've been hard enough. But post-game you have to begin with Eli Setlock, whose score with under two minutes left lifted the Little Dutchmen (16-3) to their eventual victory. Then comes senior Matt Light, who set up Setlock's score on a long throw-in and assisted Annville-Cleona's first goal via a free kick.
And lastly there's the entire team, which survived 40 minutes against the Bears with a stiff wind in their face to arrive at a 0-0 halftime score; a score that oddly propelled them to victory.
"I think we realized that we could play with them after a 0-0 half," Light said. "That's what really boosted our confidence. We knew it would be one of our most difficult games ever."
Held to one total shot before the break, the Little Dutchmen got to work post-intermission now backed by Mother Nature and began stringing shots together. Elizabethtown had managed to thoroughly control play early, racking up seven corner kicks in the first half, but began to slowly cede its grip on the game, a grasp that came unhinged when Javier Gonzalez Sanchez netted a header in the 52nd minute.
Sanchez' score, fed by Light, was the by-product of building offensive play from Annville-Cleona, which had finally settled into a more defensive game plan.
"We were planning to change the alignment if we had to, but we seemed to get comfortable with it and it really worked well," Kreiser said. "I figured we'd probably get three or four opportunities and thankfully we scored on two."
However the Bears were quick to remind everyone of their reigning champion status, striking through Reed Rummel in the 56th minute. Elizabethtown coach James Sostack ultimately chalked up his Bears' inability to add a second goal to misfortune, even as Little Dutchmen keeper Koy Alwine stopped Rummel from point-blank.
"It just wasn't our day," Sostack said. "Did I think the boys played poorly? I don't think so. Do I think Annville-Cleona outplayed us? Absolutely not."
Later, in the 75th minute, Light managed to place a line-drive free kick on goal, which ultimately found a home in the arms of Bears goalie Austin Denlinger (6 saves). Yet when Light next got his hands on a settled ball, this time one that had that leaked out of the right sideline, he was perfectly on-target with a throw sent toward the net.
When a nearby Elizabethtown defender failed to get a head on the airborne ball, there was Setlock.
"I jumped all over it," the junior said. "It was crazy."
But not as crazy as the ensuing celebration.
"Unbelievable," Kreiser said. "This was unbelievable."
And it truly was. Until the whistle blew and the cheering, jumping, exclaiming and celebrating all began. For then Saturday simply became the greatest victory in Annville-Cleona boys soccer history.
Annville-Cleona 2, Elizabethtown 1
Second half — 1. A-C, Javier Gonzalez Sanchez (Matt Light), 52:00. 2. E, Reed Rummel, 56:00. 3. A-C, Eli Setlock, 79:00.
Shots on goal — A-C 10, E 11.
Corners — A-C 4, E 9.
Goalies — A-C: Koy Alwine (4 saves). E: Austin Denlinger (6).