SOCCER: Last-second goal advances Palmyra in district playoffs
MYERSTOWN >> For a District 3 Class AA play-in game, Palmyra boys' soccer at Elco Friday afternoon couldn't have been much better.
Sean Bordner's goal with 13.3 seconds left handed Palmyra a 3-2 win over the Raiders in a tightly, evenly played contest that wasn't decided until the final whistle.
The fact that Palmyra (8-10-1) was the 18th seed and last team to make it into the district field, with Elco (12-8) being a No. 15 seed, wasn't truly indicative of the level of play by the only two Lebanon County soccer teams to have won PIAA championships.
"This game really epitomized what the district playoffs are all about," said Palmyra coach Andrew Hull, whose team earned a trip to No. 2 seed Fleetwood on Monday at 7 p.m. "To come here to Elco, with all their tradition, and pull off a district playoff win is quite an accomplishment."
The Raiders, who were coming off a 5-0 loss to Conestoga Valley in the L-L League playoffs and owned a 2-1 win over Palmyra earlier in the season, didn't go down quietly.
After Palmyra's Alex Hoffsmith gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead with 12:27 left to play, Elco's Mason Bennetch tied the game six minutes later off a feed from Blaine Troutman. It was Bennetch's late goal that gave Elco its win over Palmyra on Sept. 21.
Palmyra jumped on top in the 11th minute when sophomore Nick Jelliff scored off a missed clearance deep in Elco territory.
Troutman tied the game with 14:20 left in the first half with a powerful shot from 20 yards after converting a pass from Bennetch.
With four minutes left in the game, Troutman slid into Palmyra's Ben Groff near midfield. When Groff retaliated, he was assessed a yellow card and had to sit the remainder of the game.
With a minute left, Troutman again was involved in a collision in Palmyra's defensive third and left the field with a yellow.
Forty-five seconds later, a Palmyra attack again wasn't cleared by the Elco back line, with the ball eventually falling to Bordner, who put it away for his seventh goal of the season.
"There was a shot that ricocheted to the right," Bordner said. "I started to run after it, but Alex Hoffsmith, who is our leader on the field by example, ran behind my right shoulder and told me to move inside. Alex got to the ball, I took a step or two inside and Alex put it right on my foot."
Troutman, one of Elco's senior leaders along with center back Tucker Brown, said he regretted getting the late yellow card.
"I was just trying to play as hard as I could," he said. "I bleed blue and gold. We didn't want to see our season end."
Elco coach Kirk Keppley said it just wasn't the Raiders' day.
"We didn't play smart enough," he said. "We had trouble clearing balls out of the back. Basically, we're still young. We had four seniors who saw action today."
For the Cougars, it was their third straight win, following crucial Mid-Penn Keystone wins over Bishop McDevitt and CD East, which got them into the playoffs.
"Elco reminded me a lot of Bishop McDevitt," Hull said. "Same style of play, same colors. We never would have made the playoffs without our goalie, Tanner Yaw. Today, we had other kids step up, guys like Isaac Albrite and Alberto Cantero and Jared Bowman, who all had good games."
Making his return was also Palmyra senior Robby Hanosek, who's been battling a hamstring injury since the first Elco game. Hanosek remains Palmyra's leading scorer with eight goals, same as Hoffsmith.
Palmyra 3, Elco 2
First half — P Nick Jelliff (Ben Groff). E - Blaine Troutman (Mason Bennetch)
Second half — P Alex Hoffsmith;
Assists — BS: Taylor Pentz, P: Jess Dembrowski, Kiley Gallagher
Shots on goal — Palmyra 8, Elco 8;
Corners — Palmyra 4, Elco 5;
Saves — Palmyra: Tanner Yaw (6) Elco: Matthew Berger (5)