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BY JEFF FALK

MYERSTOWN – Not everyone has an opponent against whom they can measure themselves.

Not everyone has a rival.

Not everyone gets to play for a regular-season trophy.

If pressure is a privilege, then the Elco and Cedar Crest girls’ soccer teams are grateful for one another. It’s a strong sentiment shared before and after the annual Blue-Gray contest, just not as much during the 80 minutes in between.

On a misty Saturday morning at Elco Stadium, the Raiders and Falcons renewed their sprited rivalry with an intense, heated match that fell the home team’s way, 1-0. With neither side willing to relinquish an inch, Elco senior midfielder Cassie Johnson tallied the decisive goal early in the second half.

For the Raiders, it was their fifth straight win in the 20-plus-year history of the storied rivalry. Elco now leads the all-time Blue-Gray series 11-9.

With the result, Elco improved to 2-0 on the year. Cedar Crest is now 1-1 overall.

“Cedar Crest is a tough opponent,” said Elco head coach Derek Fulk. “It’s always going to be a battle when it’s a county rival. There’s a familiarity with the opponent you’re playing. I think there’s some bragging rights invovled.

“It’s (the fifth straight victory over Cedar Crest) just how it runs,” continued Fulk. “If you look at the history of it, it definitely goes in spurts. Having something to play for is a little more motivation. Cedar Crest is playing wars everyday in Section One (of the Lancaster-Lebanon League). It’s a little bit of a different game for them. Plus the fact that Scott (Cedar Crest head coach Steffen) are good friends adds to the rivalry.”

“The last two years it’s been one goal,” said Steffen of the Blue-Gray rivalry. “The effort was there. Overall, we’re fairly young. This was a great experience for them (his players).”

“Our two scrimmages went well, but we weren’t really challenged,” added Steffen. “Against Annville-Cleona (in the season opener), we got down a goal, but then we really played well. This effort was good from start to finish.”

Despite the tightly-contested nature of the match, each team managed to generate its share of scoring chances. But the contest was still score-less 11:37 into the second half, when Johnson seized an opportunity created by some passive Raider pressure.

An initial shot by Elco’s Emma Fox bounced through the bread basket and away from Cedar Crest keeper Kirstin Brown. The rebound was only loose for a split-second, before Johson ran on to it and used her right foot to deposit it inside the left post.

“We told them about the weather and that balls that are low and hard are tough to handle,” said Fulk of his troops. “I thought we did a better job of getting shots on net that were low and hard. They went to the goal. We finally had people get to the goal.

“I thought Emma hit a really good shot,” Fulk continued. “She drove the ball hard. Cassie’s a smart kid. She’s battled back from knee surgery, and she’s worked her tail off to get ready to play.”

“There may have been some miscommunication or a defensive breakdown,” said Steffen. “But a team like Elco is going to capitalize on that opportunity. Overall, I thought Kirstin played well.

“The ball wasn’t on the ground very long, and then ‘boom’, it was in the net,” Steffen added. “It’s what happens. It’s what you try to avoid. We need to get better organized in the upper third.”

Playing through an on-and-off drizzle, both teams battled throughout.

The Raiders may have enjoyed a little bit better of the play late in the first half and early in the second. But Cedar Crest really picked up its intensity midway through the second stanza, and it resulted in Abrielle Miller clanging a hard 25-yarder off the Elco crossbar, with 4:04 remaining.

“I thought for the first ten or 15 minutes of the game, we were horrendous,” said Fulk. “But then the next 20 minutes we were really good. Sometimes that’s because it’s a morning game. Sometimes that’s because of the weather. But even after we scored, we had ten or 15 minutes of pressure.

“I thought we started slow,” added Fulk. “But I thought we played better in the second part of the first half. Then we made some adjustments at halftime.”

“I thought we played well,” said Steffen. “This was a much better effort. We had a lot of intensity. I’m pleased with the effort.

“They (the Raiders) have a lot of experience,” continued Steffen. “With their group of seniors, they have some really good experience.”

When the dust settled, Elco had out shot Cedar Crest 10-8. The Falcons took six corner kicks, compared to the Raiders’ five.

“I think it’s going pretty good,” said Fulk, of the campaign so far. “Yes, we lost some very good senior players. But we had a good amount of quality players coming back. Things have progressed. I think things have gone pretty much the way we thought they would. I think we’re moving in the right direction.

“I think within the program, we try to set the bar high,” Fulk continued. “It’s important to live up to the girls who came before you. There’s tradition, and we know we’re always going to get every team’s best shot.”

“I like where we are,” said Steffen. “I like this group. They’re very coachable. Section One is going to be a dogfight. We knew that coming in, so it’s good to get prepped. But unlike last year, we can’t let it get us down.”

To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

Blue-Gray Cup History

2020 – Elco, 1-0

2019 – Elco, 2-1

2018 – Elco, 4-0

2017 – Elco, 2-1

2016 – Elco, 1-0

2015 – Cedar Crest, 3-0

2014 – DNP

2013 – Cedar Crest, 3-1

2012 – Cedar Crest, 4-1

2011 – Cedar Crest, 3-2

2010 – Cedar Crest, 4-1

2009 – Elco, 1-0

2008 – Elco, 2-1

2007 – Elco, 2-0

2006 – Cedar Crest, 1-0

2005 – Elco, 4-0

2004 – Elco, 1-0

2003 – DNP

2002 – Elco, 1-0

2001 – Cedar Crest, 2-1

2000 – Cedar Crest, 4-0

1999 – Cedar Crest, 2-0

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