BY JEFF FALK
PALMYRA – The Palmyra boys’ soccer team is in the midst of something special. But the Cougars are approaching it like they haven’t accomplished anything – yet.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
On a bright Tuesday night at In The Net Sports Complex, Palmyra remained unbeaten with a rather routine 6-1 victory over Central Dauphin East. The Cougars netted a pair of goals in the contest’s first 12 minutes, on their way to a 4-0 halftime lead.
Senior midfielder Josh Mark netted a first-half hat trick for Palmyra, to go along with an assist, while teammate Mike Giordano collected a goal and an assist.
The result moved the Cougars to 10-0-1 on the year and 5-0-1 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. Palmyra, which was seated fourth in the latest District Three Class AAAA power rankings, has now outscored its opponents by a combined margin of 40-3 this season, and has logged nine shutouts.
C.D. East fell to 4-6 on the campaign and 3-3 in the circuit.
“I’m a perfectionist, but so are these kids,” said Palmyra head coach Jerry Hoffsmith. “At times, it can be to a fault. We are trying to keep that level-headedness. Positive reinforcement for teammates is very important. But they’re perfectionists, so sometimes they get frustrated.
“I try to stay really humble,” continued Hoffsmith. “The minute we say we’re more than we are … I try to keep them focused, confident but not overly confident.”
The Cougars struck for the initial goal of the match, 7:55 into it. After accepting a shuffle from a teammate, Palmyra’s Roman Byler crossed a quick pass from left to right, which Mark ran on to and headed a shot into the right corner of the net.
Less than four minutes later, Giordano came up with a steal on the left wing. He took two touches and ripped a rocket inside the near post of the Panther net.
Palmyra had scored two goals on its first two shots of the game.
“We possessed well,” said Hoffsmith. “We finished well. We created opportunities.
“That’s what we’re trying to do – possess well and finish quickly,” Hoffsmith added. “It does take skill. This is a good team. These guys were well coached by their clubs. All in all, we’re pleased.”
Mark netted two more goals in the middle of the first half to extend the Cougars’ lead to 4-0. Both came on rebounds.
First, an initial hard shot was saved by C.D.East keeper Christian Garcia, and the carom came right to Mark, who made no mistakes with his right foot. Then off a corner, an attempted clear by the Panthers found its way to Mark, before he unleashed another hard right-footer.
“We’ve been playing a lot to the level and style of the competition,” said Hoffsmith. “And that’s not what we want to do. We want to set the pace.
“We played a good game, for the most part,” Hoffsmith continued. “We had that 15 to 20 minutes where we lost our focus, and at that point we had most of our starters in. What our goal is, is to play better and better. We’re trying to build momentum. We want to play at that level. It’s very important for these guys to realize they have to play at that level.”
The Cougars came out flat to start the second half, and C.D. East made them pay with a goal from Jahiem Hibbert, 8:32 into the stanza. Just five minutes earlier, the Panthers had generated their initial shot of the game.
The score stayed 4-1 until 8:34 was left in the contest. That’s when Cougar Ryan Talalai served a restart to the back side of the C.D.East net, and Mackie Fairs was there to redirect it home.
Palmyra netted its final goal with 2:57 to go, off a corner kick. Giordano took the corner and junior Jacob Dill headed it in.
“We had mixed it up at that point,” said Hoffsmith of the C.D. East goal. “We put some other people in and there was a little bit of a miscommunication. Defensively, we’ve been very, very strong. We’ve got a strong back line and we have a great goalie (senior Jordan Smith).”
On the final stat sheet, Palmyra out shot C.D. East 16-2. The Cougars took seven corner kicks, compared to the Panthers’ three.
“We’re pretty close to where we want to be,” said Hoffsmith. “We were really shooting for a clean sheet (shutout) tonight. But do you know what? Six-to-one is a good victory.”
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|2019-09-05||H||vs||Mechanicsburg Area Senior(3)||W||4-0|
|2019-09-24||H||vs||Central Dauphin East(3)||0-0|
|2019-09-28||A||vs||Mechanicsburg Area Senior(3)||0-0|
|2019-09-30||A||vs||Central Dauphin East(3)||0-0|
PIAA District Three
Class AAAA Power Rankings
Keystone Division Standings
|Palmyra Area High School||3-0-1||0.875||7-0-1||0.938|
|Lower Dauphin High School||4-1-0||0.800||7-3-0||0.700|
|Hershey High School||3-1-1||0.700||6-1-2||0.778|
|Central Dauphin East High School||3-2-0||0.600||4-5-0||0.444|
|Mechanicsburg Area High School||2-2-0||0.500||4-3-0||0.571|
|Mifflin County High School||1-5-0||0.167||1-8-0||0.111|
|Harrisburg High School||0-0-0||0.000||0-1-0||0.000