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DENVER>> Conestoga Valley's Connor Whitacre had just polished off a hat trick less than 25 minutes after the opening kickoff, and Elco coach Kirk Keppley finally admitted to himself what was sinking in for everyone else around him.

His Raiders, engaged in a lopsided battle with the Section One champion Buckskins, were in trouble. And they would hardly escape it over the remainder of a decisive loss in the Lancaster-Lebanon League quarterfinals.

Elco fell 5-0 to Conestoga Valley in a neutral-site league playoff game at Cocalico, leaving the Raiders (12-7) only with District Three tournament play for the remainder of their season. Whitacre's three goals sparked a dominant Buckskins effort also highlighted by scores from Nick Kramer and Matteo Adiletta. Conestoga Valley senior Drew Moore recorded two assists, while Elco keeper Matt Berger posted seven saves.

"We started slow and never got things going," Keppley said. "We dropped an extra defender back to defend going against the wind. They got in behind us and finished some chances."

Pinned inside their own end for the majority of the opening dozen minutes, the Raiders at last made a push downfield only to watch the Buckskins carry possession right back. Conestoga Valley then drew its fifth corner kick of the day and cashed in when Nick Kramer's launch connected with a Whitacre header in the 16th minute.

The senior captain took less than seven minutes to strike again, this time set up by a remarkable Moore cross from deep in the left corner. Moore had chased an unclaimed ball down the sideline, thrown on the breaks upon staking possession, then briefly turned left and whipped back right toward the frame with a clean, accurate cross. That kind of skill continued to present the Raiders problems through halftime, when Section Three's third seed trailed 4-0.

"They had speed, lots of skill, and they moved the ball well," Keppley said. "And we also let things happen for them."

Now playing with the wind at its back, Elco staved the Buckskins off for another 12-minute stretch via sustained possession and a more organized, forceful back line. But there was no keeping the better squad Saturday from a final goal, as Matteo Adiletta put home a deflected Moore shot in the 53rd minute.

Not long after, Conestoga Valley coach and Elco grad Dave Hartlaub began a stream of substitutions that would eventually empty his bench.

"They didn't let us come at them initially, but we felt good about our chances," Hartlaub said. "We try to teach our kids take what's given, and they did that today."

Elco will most likely move on to a District Three play-in game Friday against Bishop McDevitt. The exact time, place and opponent of the Raiders' next contest will be determined in the coming week.

Conestoga Valley 5, Elco 0

Elco00—0

CV41—5

First half — 1. CV, Connor Whitacre (Drew Moore), 17:00. 2. CV, Whitacre (Nick Kramer), 22:00. 3. CV, Whitacre (Moore), 25:00. 4. CV, Kramer, 31:00.

Second half — 5. CV, Matteo Adiletta (Kirubel Gebre), 54:00.

Shots on goal — CV 16, E 5.

Corners — CV 6, E 4.

Goalies — CV: Trey Orner (2 saves), Bobby Stremmer (2), Carter Lam (1). E: Matt Berger (7).

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