HARRSISBURG – The members of the Palmyra boys’ soccer squad are a bunch of stand-up guys. They do what they say they’re going to do.
And if they’re going to show up, more times than not, the Cougars are going to show out. That’s been the key to Palmyra’s success to this point of the season.
On a splendid Monday evening at Central Dauphin East High School, the Cougars didn’t necessarily put forth their best showing, but they were clearly the superior team in a 3-1 road victory over the hometown Panthers. After spotting C.D.East a quick 1-0 advantage, Palmyra dominated the rest of the match, while receiving goals from three different sources.
Freshman Scott O’Donnell, junior Brayden Sunho and senior Kasen Bixler all found the back of the net for the Cougars, while O’Donnell, Sunho and Aidan Mark all contributed assists. Three of the four goals scored in the match came during the first 15 minutes of action.
With the triumph, Palmyra improved to 8-2 on the year. The result made C.D. East 3-5-1.
“We’ve kind of taken the 1-0 mantra,” said Palmyra head coach Jeff Wilver. “Stay focused and win the day. To our credit, we went 1-0 this day. We expect every game to go out, compete and win. We expect every single game that if we play well, we’ll win.
“During the off-season, we raised our skill level individually,” continued Wilver. “We’ve processed it in our system to be versatile. We’ve worked hard to get to this point.”
The Panthers ambushed the Cougars for an early 1-0 lead, thanks to a Bimal Rai-to-Kranti Rai connection. But Palmyra’s response was both quick and decisive.
First, O’Donnell tied the game, after converting a feed from Mark. Then, Sunho gave the Cougars the lead for good, off an assist by O’Donnell.
For Sunho, it was his tenth goal of the season.
“We looked like we were sleep walking on a Monday,” said Wilver. “They’re (the Panthers) a little more direct. The beat our intensity during the first five or ten minutes.
“I knew we’d wake up,” Wilver added. “We got that first goal back quickly. If’s 1-0 or 1-1 long enough, it becomes more of a problem. We knew we were going to have to play well. We haven’t played on grass since our scrimmages. We’ve been on turf the last six weeks.”
Less than a minute before halftime, the Cougars acquired themselves some insurance.
After a dangerous ball was played into the C.D. East box, the Panthers failed to clear it. Sunho managed to get the ball to Bixler, who slid a 15-yard right footer inside the right post.
“It was not our cleanest effort,” said Wilver. “We didn’t adjust to the surface. Give C.D. East credit, they gave us a battle. Their guys played hard. It was a tough lesson to learn, but you’d rather do it with a win than a loss.
“It’s a division game (Keystone of the Mid-Penn Conference),” Wilver continued. “They’re all important. We’ve got to put a better product on the field, and if we do, the result will come. We weren’t sharp enough in the box. We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities.”
Despite its dominance on the field and in the scorebook, Palmyra was never able to deliver the knockout blow in the second half. But defensively, the Cougars did not yield a shot on goal during the second 40 minutes of play.
In the final tally, Palmyra out shot C.D. East 31-2. The Cougars were awarded four corners kicks compared to the Panthers’ one.
“Generally, we’re better offensively,” said Wilver. “We’ve scored goals in bunches. Credit East. They made it tough on us. But we’ve got some things to clean up moving forward.
“The season is going well,” added Wilver. “With the standard we’ve set for ourselves, we may be a little greedy. It’s definitely a luxury to be scoring goals like we have been.”