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BOYS SOCCER: Elco takes back the Cup, 4-2

Four straight years, the Elco boys soccer team was forced to dejectedly endure the sight of Cedar Crest taking home the coveted Ritter-Hoffman Cup.

And given the way Saturday night's latest Cup encounter began, it sure looked like five years in a row was a distinct possibility.

And then, suddenly, it wasn't.

Down 2-0 late in the first half the Raiders rallied to tie with a pair of goals in the final 5:59 before intermission, then went ahead to stay on Clay Hain's goal with 24:27 left on the way to an improbable 4-2 triumph at Cedar Crest's Earl Boltz Stadium.

Now 2-2 in the early going, Elco found rough sledding early as Cedar Crest (0-4) grabbed the aforementioned lead via scores by Chad Ryland and Collin Jones off perfectly executed set pieces.

But from there, almost like magic, Elco came alive and stayed that way until the clock showed all zeroes and the Cup was on its way back to Myerstown.

"We started off a little shaky, but the goal was to win the game and get the Cup back," said Hain, a sophomore midfielder. "We had that in our heads the whole game. It means a lot to have the Cup back. It just means a lot."

"It's outstanding, it means a lot to the kids to have it back," said a beaming Elco coach Kirk Keppley. "This is one thing that's been on their minds and on their list. This is definitely a game we wanted to take tonight."

The Raiders began the process of grabbing it when Ethan Anspach found the back of the net with a tick under six minutes left in the half to make it a 2-1 game.

The visitors then fully and permanently snared all momentum with 2:57 to go before the break when Evan Gettler knocked in Blaine Troutman's corner kick.

Cedar Crest never really recovered from the stunning turn of events.

"We started off the game very strong, then we sat back a little bit and weren't pressuring them as much as the game went on," said Cedar Crest head coach Travis Bensing. "It allowed them to turn and open up the field and they got some free kick opportunities as well."

Appropriately enough, it was an open-field play by Hain that ultimately decided the game. And, interestingly enough, it came shortly after he was prepared to come out of the game for a rest.

"Right before that he said, 'Coach, I need a sub,'" said Keppley with a laugh. "But he stepped up, wanted the ball, and went, what, 30-40 yards and knocked it in. We were like, 'Yeah, he definitely needs a sub now."

"I went to the ball and won a tackle and just tried to place (the shot)," Hain said of his big goal.

Tucker Brown then put the cherry on top of the comeback sundae by ripping a free kick into the back of the net with 21:23 to go.

That provided a two-goal and set up a prolonged stretch of typical Ritter-Hoffman chippiness between the two fierce rivals.

"It's neighboring districts, pride. I remember how physical our games were when we played,"Elco soccer alum Keppley said, summing up the spirit of the rivalry."It's one of those things, it's what a rivalry is."

"It's an honor to play in this game," Hain said. "It's always a good game every year."

Especially when you get to take the Cup home.

Elco 4, Cedar Crest 2

Elco22—4Cedar Crest20—2

First half — CC: Chad Ryland, Collin Jones, E: Ethan Anspach, Evan Gettler

Second half — E: Clay Hain, Tucker Brown

Assists — CC: Aaron Morris, Mark Wolf, E: Blaine Troutman

Shots on goal — Cedar Crest 7, Elco 7

Corners — Cedar Crest 3, Elco 2

Goalies — E: Ethan Krall (2 saves), Matthew Berger (2 saves), CC: Jake Beard (2 saves)