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Elco clinches Section 3 Co-Championship

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One win separated them from something that hasn’t been done in a little over a decade – winning a section title. All they needed was to come focused and ready to go against an intracountry rival with plenty to play for too.

And boy, did they come ready to go.

After dominating play from the first to final whistle, the Elco Raiders boys soccer team clinched the Section 3 Co-Championship with Lancaster Mennonite, thanks to a solid 3-0 win against the Annville-Cleona Dutchmen Wednesday at Annville-Cleona High School. It’s the first section title for the Raiders in 13 years.

And the last time the section title was captured – they won the state championship.

“It feels pretty good. On the bus ride here I told the guys how long it’s been, and told them we can’t let anything go wrong today,” said Elco coach Kirk Keppley. “We’re excited, it’s nice winning the section co-champs, but I think they and I have a lot more to accomplish.”

The Raiders certainly took care of business since their tie against the Blazers Oct. 3, winning their last four.

Seth Noll, who led the way with a clutch two-goal performance, says there is nothing sweeter than clinching a long-coveted section title against a county rival.

“That’s amazing. It’s been a while since we took this home and it’s good to have it back,” Noll said. “It’s awesome. We all came out here playing hard. It was a good battle. Everyone kept working their hardest.”

Noll’s first goal was credited on an own goal in the 11th minute that first put Elco on the board, followed by a goal in the 56th minute to seal the win at 3-0.

“The played a cross in on the first goal. I played a little pressure against defender and it went right in and got lucky,” Noll said. “The second goal I got an open run atop the 18, went to play it across…it hit the post, but thankfully we had guys following up, played it across and had an easy touch in.”

Justin Kimmet had the other goal for the Raiders (14-2-2, 12-0-2), in the 18th minute. Mason Bennetch also had a key role in the Raiders’ success with two assists.

And Keppley says having that kind of depth offensively has been a major part of a very successful season to date.

“Seth, Clay, Mason and other guys up top all work really hard. They’re solid kids. They don’t let down,” he said.

The Dutchmen (10-7, 8-6) meanwhile, have one more game left Thursday against Lancaster County Christian, looking to secure the 10th and final spot in the District 3 Class AA Power Rankings.

As the Raiders await as their opponent either Ephrata, Elizabethtown, or Lampeter-Strasburg in the quarterfinal round of the Lancaster-Lebanon League Playoffs on Saturday. Keppley says nothing will change as far as preparation goes.

“They’re a really relaxed group of guys. The coaching staff and I were talking at practice the other day, asking ourselves, ‘Have we been too lax on them?,’” Keppley said. “But they’re the kind of kids…they come out and they’re ready for the big game. So we’re going to keep doing the same things we’ve been doing…short practices, working on little things that we maybe need to tweak a bit and go from there.”