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IMG_0687BY JEFF FALK

MYERSTOWN – Hoffman-Ritter Cup boys’ soccer games are always heated, physical and intense. But in some, emotions run higher than in others.

And while last night was one of those years, those emotions never met with any type of closure, in the form of an outcome.

On Saturday night at Elco Stadium, an especially passionate Hoffman-Ritter Cup ended without a winner, as the annual war between Cedar Crest and Elco was ended by lightning. Officially, the result will go down as a one-all, non-league draw, after the match was interrupted by a thunderstorm, and never restarted, with 1:43 remaining of the first of two scheduled ten-minute overtime periods.

IMG_0619Play was noticeably heated during a first half in which the Falcons and Cedars traded goals. In light of the result, Cedar Crest retained the Hoffman-Ritter Cup – named for the founders of the neighboring schools’ boys’ soccer programs – for the fourth straight year.

Cedar Crest is now 1-0-3 on the fall, while Elco upped its overall mark to 1-2-1.

The second half of the scheduled boys’/girls’ soccer doubleheader involving the Falcons and Raiders was postponed by the weather, to a date and time yet to be determined.

IMG_0690“It’s important to everyone, players, coaches. alumni,” said Cedar Crest head coach Dustin Bixler, whose team drew a total of five yellow cards, three in the first half. “But it’s good to see the community come together. It always turns into a battle.

“You’re not going to see that in any other game,” continued Bixler. “These guys know each other well. There’s personal battles.’

“It’s like kissing your sister,” said Elco head coach Kirk Keppley. “But that was an old-fashioned Cedar Crest-Elco game. No one backed down. Anything that moved, you kicked it. But I also thought there was some good soccer.

“They (the officials) let them play at times,” continued Keppley. “I thought our boys were up for it. Before the game I told them, ‘if you go out there and play Elco soccer like I think you can, you’re going to be a tough team to beat.’ This was the first time I saw them play Elco soccer together.”

IMG_0600The Falcons struck first, 10:20 into the hostilities, off a melee in front of the Elco cage.

Hard-charging Falcon forward Colton Wasson really forced the play and created the opportunity. Wasson kept after it and kept the ball alive, and ultimately it bounced to teammate Nate Hess, who was at the right place at the right time.

With Elco netminder Noah Kline down and out of position, Hess drilled a 25-footer with his right foot into an unattended goal.

IMG_0655“Nate has been a varsity player for the last three years,” said Bixler of Hess, “and he’s been working up and down the flanks really hard. We’re very happy he was able to put one in the back of the net. The ball went up top, it fell to Nate and Nate put it in.’

“We didn’t get the ball cleared,” said Keppley. “It rebounded two or three times, and we didn’t clear it. And the kid (Hess) hit a great shot.”

One of Cedar Crest’s first-half yellow cards directly led to Elco’s equalizer.

With time running down in the session, Elco’s Austin Smith was taken down hard, in the box, and from behind. Smith was awarded a penalty kick, on which he made no mistakes, going hard right, while Cedar Crest goalie John Krall was diving in the opposite direction.

IMG_0646With 1:27 remaining in the first half, the score was tied at one.

“We’ve had a lot of PKs this year and I think it’s a product of our style of play,” said Keppley. “We did PKs in practice on Thursday because that’s how this game ended last year. They say you shouldn’t let the kid who was fouled take the penalty kick. But Austin worked his butt off of it, and he deserved it.

“It’s (penalty kicks) a lot of nerves,” continued Keppley. “You’re talking about 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kids. You get into a game like that, it’s not as easy as it looks.”

IMG_0643“We ended up getting a bit anxious,” said Bixler. “But when you do that, it’s a penalty kick every time.

“Every single year we do this Cup, and it’s a brutal game,” Bixler continued. “We’ve got to take our hats off to Elco, they put one in the back of the net.”

The second half was even more tightly contested and closely marked than the first. Truly dangerous scoring opportunities were few and far between.

According to the final stats, Elco out shot Cedar Crest 6-5. The Raiders took six corner kicks to the Falcons’ three.

“I guess you can say we’re undefeated,” said Bixler. “We’re never happy to see it end in a tie. They (the Raiders) were gracious enough to say ‘Keep the Cup.’

IMG_0614“Overall, we demand a lot of these boys,” added Bixler. “We don’t allow them to have that goof-off time. We’d like to see .500 this season. We’d like to win as many games as we lose.”

“It’s still early, and we’ve struggled,” said Keppley. “But if we play like we did tonight, we’re going to be tough against anyone. If we don’t show up to play, it’s a long night. It’s who shows up to play.

“We want to get back to Elco soccer, and Elco soccer is the playoffs,” Keppley added. “We have our work cut out for us. Realistically, this crew is the one who’s going to respond. We have struggled. Whatever the reason, it’s tougher to do.”

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