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Allibone: Gettysburg's undefeated season drifts away, but state title hopes remain

HERSHEY >> It was only by a matter of inches, but Gettysburg's dream of an undefeated season ended Thursday night at Herseypark Stadium.

Down by a goal to Lancaster Mennonite with 20 minutes remaining in the District 3 Class AA title game, Warriors' forward Matt Yingling hit a shot that found its way past goalie Nate Flanders. The ball seemed to roll in slow motion before it clanged off the post.

"I don't know what was going through my mind but my heart definitely stopped," Gettysburg co-head coach Ian Hancock said. "It was heartbreaking."

Although Gettysburg would get a few more chances in the final minutes, that was the closest they would come to tying the game, as the Blazers hung on to upset the Warriors 2-1. It's the second straight year the Warriors have lost in the championship game.

This time however, it stings a little bit more. Unlike last season, when they lost 2-1 to Fleetwood, the Warriors entered the game as the favorite. But despite outplaying the Blazers for the entire second half, they were unable to overcome a sluggish start to put them in an early 2-0 hole.

"It's way worse this year than last year," Hancock said. "Coming in we were really confident. The way they responded after the two goals was better than I expected to be honest. They deserved more, that's what makes it harder."

While the Warriors hadn't trailed in a game all season entering Thursday's contest, it didn't take long for Lancaster Mennonite to set the tone. The Blazers dominated possession early and took a 1-0 lead nine minutes in when midfielder Chase Ross hit a rocket from 20 yards out that Warriors goalie Yanni Tassou couldn't get up high enough to save.

Less than three minutes later, Ross was at it again, crashing the net on an in-bounds play and knocking the throw from forward Matthew Lynch past Tassou into the net to give Lancaster Mennonite a stunning 2-0 advantage.

That goal proved to be the wake-up call the Warriors needed, as they quickly gained control of the game. Still, the Warriors were unable to get on the board until five minutes into the second half, when senior Adam Yingling finished off a breakaway to cut the deficit to 2-1.

While the Warriors consistently kept the ball in the Blazers end for the remainder of the game, they were foiled time and time again by Flanders, who made a number of terrific saves in the second half.

"I try not to think about it too much, I just try to get what I can, make a leap and give it my best effort," Flanders said. "The post usually isn't my best friend, but today it was my best friend."

Despite the loss, the Warriors still advance to the state playoffs, where they'll play Lansdale Catholic in the first round. As disappointing as Thursday was, Hancock said the coaching staff didn't find it necessary to give the players any motivational words afterwards.

"We asked if they wanted to stop for food or go straight home," Hancock said. "We have the next 24 hours to hate every waking moment and then we're done with it. We're on to the next one."