BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – There are four kinds of ties – good ones, bad ones, deserved ones and clip-ons.
Neither Northern Lebanon or Elco was pleased with last night’s tie. The Raiders because they didn’t perform particularly well and the Vikings because they believed their deserved a better fate.
On Tuesday night at Elco Stadium, Northern Lebanon and Elco fought to a 2-2 Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three boys’ soccer overtime draw. After the Vikings had enjoyed a one-goal edge for more than 60 minutes of action, the Raiders earned the tie by converting a penalty kick with 1:48 remaining in regulation.
Elco was awarded the PK when one of its attackers was fouled hard in the middle of the goal mouth – and right in front of the referee – during a late corner kick. Raider Austin Smith made good on the penalty kick, beating Viking keeper Steven Speer with a blast to the upper right half of the goal.
During two fairly uneventful ten-minute overtime periods, Elco enjoyed a 2-1 margin in shots on goal.
“I don’t like tying,” said Northern Lebanon rookie head coach Jordan Auman. “And I didn’t think we deserved it. I thought in the first half, we could’ve put more chances away.”
“We could’ve just as easily lost 2-1,” said Elco head coach Kirk Keppley. “It was getting close to the end of the game, and we were down 2-1. It was a legitimate penalty kick. There was no doubt about it. But it was a little bit of luck.
“The result was good,” added Keppley. “I guess we were expecting more. We wanted more. But a tie was certainly better than a loss.”
The outcome left surprising Northern Lebanon, which won five games all of last season, 3-1-1 overall and 2-0-1 in Section Three. Elco, which has missed out on the postseason during each of the past two seasons, moved to 1-3-2 on the year and 1-1-1 in the section.
“Honestly, I saw my keeper win the ball,” said Auman, a 2008 graduate of Northern Lebanon, of the decisive PK. “But I didn’t see the rest of the play. It’s a tough one to call with two minutes left in the game.
“As a player, I was always up for them (the Raiders),” Auman continued. “It’s intense. For me, they’re (the Raiders) always the team to beat. They’ve been a strong force in soccer, and because we’re both from the county, it’s a rivalry, at least for us. It’s always good. That (a certain level of intensity) seems to be a common factor in Northern Lebanon-Elco games.”
“That was always one of the things, ‘We want to go to Elco and beat Elco,'” said Keppley. “But the last two years we might have lost some of that. People have always said it’s tough playing here. Beating Elco is important to everyone. I don’t think our kids realize they have to battle, home and away. There are no easy wins.”
The first three goals were scored in the opening 17:35 of the contest, two of which were David Brooks tallies for Northern Lebanon six minutes apart.
The first came nine minutes after the Raiders had opened the scoring. Unmarked in the middle of the Raider goal, Brooks went up and got a nicely played corner kick from teammate Jeremy Bender with his head, and deposited it into the net.
On the second, Brooks was played ahead by Caleb Daubert. The speedy Brooks beat an Elco defender and Raider netminder Austen Davis to the ball, and chipped it over Davis’ head and into the unattended net.
“He’s very important to our attack,” said Auman of Brooks. “He creates quite a lot of chances, and he finishes quite a bit. That was a pretty solid game for him. He was everywhere on the pitch.
“I thought we played really well in the first half,” Auman added. “After the goal, we played really well. But the second half was much more defensive.”
“We struggled in the first half,” said Keppley. “We came out and scored quickly, but then we stopped playing. I don’t know if we thought 1-0 was good enough. When we get it into dangerous places, we have to learn how to finish.”
Elco scored on the first shot of the game, 2:07 in.
Off a three-on-three attack, Zach Swonger threaded a ball through to Smith from the right, who beat his defender to the right post. Smith sent a perfect cross to Noah Kline at the left post, and Kline headed the ball in, off the cross bar.
“What I remember is that he almost missed,” said Keppley of Kline. “He was going hard to the goal, and the ball was played in well. We were glad he finished. And it was a good ball played to Austin Smith from Zach Swonger.
“I think the effort is there,” continued Keppley. “It’s the desire, the killer instinct, if you will. It’s almost like they (his players) expect someone else to do it. We’ve talked about that for a while. We haven’t had a vocal leader. They’re a very quiet group. They’re very good with the ball, but that’s only half the game. It’s not that they don’t know what to do. I think that’s key: to go after a ball in the box with desire.”
“They’re a good team,” said Auman of the Raiders. “They’re good in positioning. They switch the ball nicely. They’re organized. And they’ve got a good goalkeeper and a good defender.”
When all was said and done, the shots were dead-even at ten apiece and the corners were deadlocked at six each.
“I have a very strong team,” said Auman. “I have a good class of seniors and juniors. They can do some good things. My ultimate goal is making the league playoffs and getting to districts. But doing better than last year doesn’t seem good enough.
“We started with a tough schedule,” Auman continued. “So to be where we are right now, I’m pleased. Every L-L (Lancaster-Lebanon) game is going to be tough.”
“When you have last year’s state finalist (Lancaster Mennonite) and last year’s state champion (Pequea Valley) in the section, it’s tough,” said Keppley. “Northern Lebanon was a good team tonight. They have some good soccer players. We have a tough schedule, and I’m expecting more of the same the rest of the way.”