HERSHEY – There are few things better than a district championship. But one of them is coming together as a unit to realize potential.
Reflection produces perspective. And perspective allows us to see the big picture and experience the whole truth.
On a frosty Thursday night at Hersheypark Stadium, the Palmyra boys’ soccer team fell to a familiar foe, Hershey, 3-1 in the District Three Class AAA championship game. The fast and highly-skilled Trojans netted a pair of goals in the first half, and the Cougars were never able to make up the deficit over the second 40 minutes of action.
With the loss, second-seeded Palmyra fell to 17-3-1 on the year. The Cougars’ next action will come on Tuesday in the opening round of the PIAA Class AAA postseason, on the road against the District 11 champion.
Last night’s Palmyra-Hershey meeting was the third of the fall. During the regular season, the Trojans won at home on September 13th, while the Cougars emerged victorious on October 5th at OAL Sports Complex.
The District Three final appearance was Palmyra’s fourth overall and first in a decade. The Cougars won their only District Three title in 2008.
“We don’t ever want to lose sight of the task at hand,” said Palmyra head coach Jeff Wilver. “But we talked before the game about how of the 35 (Class AAA) teams in District Three, we’re one of two at the end. That’s no small task.
“Even though we’re not walking away with the color of medal that we wanted, we have a lot to celebrate,” added Wilver. “We have a lot to be thankful for. We put ourselves in position to play for a district title, and now we’re one of 16 (Class AAA) teams in the state still playing.”
Down 2-0, Palmyra pulled to within a goal of Hershey 2:47 into the second half. From the middle of the field, a ball was played to the left to Cougar freshman Scott O’Donnell, who made no mistakes inside the near post.
But despite owning the action, the Cougars could never come up with the equalizer. That was before Andrew Zhao ran on to a ball played sent ahead by teammate Kaden Farrell, and beat Cougar goalkeeper Manny Rose to it to make it 3-1, with 2:06 to go.
“I take nothing away from Hershey,” said Wilver. “They played a heck of a first half. We played much better in the second half.
“We didn’t play poorly in the first half, but you’ve got to capitalize on your chances,” Wilver added. “We had chances to get the equalizer in the second half. It kind of just wasn’t our night.”
Hershey grabbed a 1-0 advantage off a restart 7:53 into contest. From 35 yards away, Stefan Verbeek hit a ball into a crowd in the middle of the box, and Zhao went up and precisely headed it into the far corner of the net.
But the goal that really hurt the Palmyra cause was the one scored by talented Ben Zimmer, 1:52 before the break. Zimmer made a great solo run down the left side of the field, before using his left foot to provide Hershey with a 2-0 advantage.
“Our first priority was not to give them set pieces,” said Wilver. “I think they’re (the Trojans) one of the top couple of teams in the state. They’re organized and well-coached. It’s a great recipe.
“It’s a friendly rivalry with Hershey,” Wilver continued. “They want to beat us and we want to beat them. We know them inside and out. We know who to account for. But overall, I’m pleased with the way we battled.”
Palmyra out shot Hershey 7-1 in the second half of play, and 12-4 for the game. The Cougars earned a slight 5-4 edge in corner kicks.
“Hershey’s a good team, but we are too,” said Wilver. “Now we’ve got to reset, because we start a new season tomorrow. Hopefully we can win a few games in states.”
|Thu, 9/211:00pm||Cedar CrestHome • Non-Conference||W6-0|
|Sat, 9/410:00am||Cedar CrestHome, Non-Conference||W7-0|
|Wed, 9/86:30pm||Mifflin CountyHome • Conference||W9-0|
|Fri, 9/104:00pm||ElizabethtownAway • Non-Conference||W2-0|
|Sat, 9/114:00pm||WaynesboroAway • Conference||W4-0|
|Mon, 9/137:00pm||HersheyAway • Conference||L3-0|
|Wed, 9/155:00pm||Lower DauphinHome • Conference||L1-0|
|Sat, 9/187:00pm||Manheim CentralAway • Non-Conference||W2-1 (2OT)|
|Thu, 9/237:00pm||MechanicsburgAway • Conference||W4-1|
|Sat, 9/2510:00am||Northern YorkHome • Non-Conference||W3-0|
|Mon, 9/273:45pm||Central Dauphin EastAway • Conference||W3-1|
|Wed, 9/294:00pm||Mifflin CountyAway • Conference||W11-0|
|Tue, 10/5Time TBA||HersheyHome • Non-Conference||W2-0|
|Thu, 10/77:00pm||Lower DauphinAway • Conference||W1-0|
|Mon, 10/1110:00pm||WaynesboroAway • Conference||W3-0|