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Some tactical and personnel changes have helped spark this current playoff run that the Elco boys’ soccer team is on. But even more important to the Raiders’ recent success has been their transformation in demeanor and approach.

And no one embodies that never-say-die, just-keep-going, full-ahead spirit more than Austin Smith.

Smith, a highly-skilled, dangerous attacker, is a threat to create or score every time a soccer ball enters his personal space. The senior forward seemingly fears nothing and isn’t afraid to put his teammates ahead of personal safety.

On Thursday evening at Hersheypark Stadium, Smith starred in both roles of creator and finisher, as Elco edged Pequea Valley 2-1 in overtime of a District Three Class AA playoff match. It was the Raiders’ ninth win in their last ten outings and propelled them into next week’s Class AA semifinals.

In the latter portions of the first half, Smith needed very little operating room to knot the score at one, a mere minutes after Pequea Valley had assumed a 1-0 edge. Collecting a loose ball  at the top of the box, Smith controlled it, but then without taking a dribble, rifled a low right-footed shot into the right corner of the goal.

Then less than two minutes into the extra session, Smith accepted a Zach Swonger feed and went hard down the right sideline. After creating a bit of space for himself, Smith crossed a perfect pass across the goal mouth to the waiting head of Justin Kimmet, stationed on the  left post.

Goal! Goal! Goal!

– Jeff Falk

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