Biglerville falls in district title game
By the time Orion Mathias lined up a kick on a restart early in the second half, Tulpehocken had already established the fact it had a polished team.
Ripping his shot above the outstretched arms of Biglerville goalie Noah Mattson and under the crossbar, Mathias calmly lifted his arm and jogged back to midfield to celebrate yet another goal in the District 3 Class 2A boys’ soccer championship game.
"It was almost like the soccer gods were with them," Biglerville head coach Jebb Nelson said.
Tulpehocken made it look easy, playing with a starting lineup with 10 seniors. The Trojans cashed in with a 5-0 victory in the final at Hersheypark Stadium Saturday, winning their second straight district championship in their third consecutive appearance in a district final.
"They all were connected, they all knew what they were doing, everybody was on the same page," Biglerville's Conner Griest said about Tulpehocken.
During its three-year run of championship appearances, Tulpehocken (22-1) has yet to surrender a goal in regulation during a final. It was a frustrating end for Biglerville (18-4), which was looking for its first district title since 2013.
"Their defense is extremely different than other teams, they're tall which we're used to, I mean, we've played other teams that are tall, but we couldn't get through them," Griest said.
"I didn't know what was up, we couldn't do anything tonight."
Biglerville had its best scoring chance of the game about midway through the first half, but when the Canners failed to cash in from close range.
"If we would have hit that wide open one, I would have liked to see how the tempo of the game changed," Nelson said.
Tulpehocken's Brian Garay broke the scoreless tie. He controlled the ball with his back to the goal inside the penalty box, turning he booted the ball before a defender could step in front to score.
About eight minutes later, Garay broke through the Biglerville defense on a feed from Vance Gradwell and booted home another score.
Less than two minutes later it was Garay feeding Gradwell inside the box. Gradwell controlled the ball with his chest before popping a shot from close-range for a 3-0 halftime lead.
"We couldn't really defend him," Griest said of Garay. "We couldn't give him any space because he took any shot and it seemed like it went in."
Tulpehocken’s flurry of activity in the final 13:30 of the first half helped erase the memory of several Biglerville chances in close, the best of which resulted in Griest chipping a cross into Christian Saldivar. But Saldivar’s header went wide of the goal.
"They know deep down that this wasn't their best game," Nelson said about his players. "We just now have to refocus."
First half: 1. Tulp, Brian Garay, 13:22; 2. Tulp, Garay (Vance Gradwell), 5:23; 3. Tulp, Gradwell (Garay), 3:41.
Second half: 1. Tulp, Orion Mathias, 37:22; 2. Gradwell, 8:20.
Corners: Big 2, Tulp 5.
Shots: Big 4, Tulp 15.
Goalies: Big, Noah Mattson (10 saves); Tulp, Trent Johnson (4 saves).