ANNVILLE – A penalty kick AND a red card.
When it comes to punishments in soccer, there aren’t too many more harsh than that. But penalties are only penalties if one allows them to be.
The crucial moment of Thursday night’s Northern Lebanon at Annville-Cleona boys’ soccer game came when there was no turning point. The Little Dutchmen turned what could’ve been a momentum-changing call by the officials into motivation and rolled over the Vikings 4-1.
With A-C protecting a 2-0 lead and 4:49 of the first half remaining, a Little Dutchmen defender was shown a red card for pulling down Viking striker Darin Shirk from behind. Shirk was awarded a penalty kick and Annville-Cleona was forced to play the rest of the match a man down, ten-on-11.
But Little Dutchmen goalie Justin Uhrich denied Shirk’s PK with a brilliant, sprawling save, and despite being a player short, Annville-Cleona went on to score the next two goals to open a 4-0 lead.
In light of the outcome, both the Little Dutchmen and Vikings stayed in the thick of the Lancaster-Lebanon Section Three race. Annville-Cleona is now 7-2 overall and 5-2 in the league, while Northern Lebanon slipped to 5-3-1 on the fall and 4-2-1 in the circuit.
“No, there is no harsher penalty,” said Annville-Cleona head coach Ray Kreiser. “That’s the harshest penalty a team can get. I know what he (the official) called, I just disagreed with it. This group is starting to show their character, to show their maturity. It very well could’ve been the turning point, but I thought it went the other way. because of the stop of the PK. They (the Vikings) were awarded a penalty kick, we’re down a man and our best defender is on the bench, but we were like; ‘We’re not going to lose this. We’re not going to give them an opportunity to get back in the game.’ The kids worked their butts off.
“That type of play is going to go one of two ways, it’s going to sink you or it’s going to pull you up,” continued Kreiser. “There was not one negative comment. It was like, ‘What are we going to do to win this game?’ I told them (his players), ‘I’m not pulling off the attack.'”
“It should’ve been a turning point,” said Northern Lebanon head coach Jordan Aumen. “It was huge for us. We should’ve put away the penalty kick, and they (the Little Dutchmen) got some momentum from that. And we didn’t have an answer for that.
“When they went down a man, someone for us has got to step up,” Aumen continued. “We didn’t show we were up a man. They (the Little Dutchmen) were strong in the back.”
Speedy forward Matt Light netted a pair of goals for Annville-Cleona, including its first, 14 minutes after Shirk had clanged a drive off the A-C crossbar. Going left across the box, Light slid a right-footer along the ground and inside the right post.
“I told our guys, ‘This is one of the best games, as far as character and effort, that I’ve ever coached,” said Kreiser. “I told them, ‘Tonight is gut check time. We have to take care of business, and if we do, we’ll put pressure on everybody (in the section) in the second half (of the season).”
“We were pretty unlucky, hitting the crossbar when it was 0-0 and missing a PK,” said Aumen. “It didn’t go our way tonight.
Light notched his second goal of the evening 2:47 after halftime. Nate Morgan chipped a through-ball that Light ran on to, and Light beat Northern Lebanon net-minder Steven Speer to the near post.
It was Morgan’s third assist of the night.
Then with 15:14 remaining, Sam Soliday, Annville-Cleona’s all-time leading scorer, made it 4-0. Off a restart, a long ball was played to Little Dutchman Luc Neumann, who attempted a shot to the far post.
The attempt was headed wide, but a sliding Soliday got a leg on it to deflect it home.
“We felt we could really attack them with the group we had,” said Kreiser. “We had to pick and choose our opportunities, and when they (the Vikings) pressed, we had to counter-attack. We tried to play the ball to space to use up the clock. If you were watching the game, you wouldn’t have known we were a man down.”
“We knew we had to watch out for him,” said Aumen of Soliday. “We just wanted to be aware of him.
“They’re (the Little Dutchmen) definitely a good team,” Aumen added. “It would’ve been a good game if we would’ve showed up. They have a good senior group and good leadership. They’re fast and you’ve got to keep up with them all day.”
Northern Lebanon averted a shutout with 12:06 to go, when Ulrich’s attempt to clear a ball struck Shirk and caromed into his net.
The Vikings enjoyed an 8-6 margin in shots, but the Little Dutchmen made good on four of their attempts.
“It’s been a long time since I could say those numbers as a coach,” said Kreiser of his club’s current win total. “We had high expectations coming into the season. This was the first time the players’ expectations exceeded the coaches’. I brought seven of my top eight offensive players back. And my goaltender is a kid who just keeps you in the game.”
“(A loss to Lancaster) Mennonite was a hiccup for us,” Aumen continued. “It was a low point for us. Tonight we were looking for more effort. But it wasn’t the best for us.”
LEBANON SPORTS BUZZ
Boys’ Soccer Rankings
2. Northern Lebanon
3. Cedar Crest
7. Lebanon Catholic