Article by Jeffrey Kauffman, The Sentinel
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MECHANICSBURG — Unbeaten Hershey brought their winning streak to the Northside Pitch on Thursday to tangle with a one-loss Mechanicsburg squad and they knew they were in for battle but got an early goal and bunkered in to snag a 1-0 whitewash of the Wildcats.
Hershey-Mechanicsburg games have typically been hard-fought, physical affairs that usually turn on one mistake by a defense. Mechanicsburg (7-2, 4-2 Keystone) made the early mistake and the Trojans capitalized just under two minutes into the contest. Junior Tanner Therit beat the Wildcat defense to the left corner and crossed a ball back toward the six-yard line. His cross found an unmarked Jordan Wix-Rauch, who easily found the back of the net at the 1:48 mark. It was Wix-Rauch’s 12th goal on the season for the Trojans.
Therit and Wix-Rauch proved to be thorns in the side of the Wildcats all evening as they repeatedly got Therit the ball in the corner where he was able to use his quickness and tenacity to send balls into the box.
Wix-Rauch found himself with plenty of space at times, but his counterpart for the Wildcats, Joseph Panuccio found very little space. Freshman Andrew Sullivan of Hershey spent his entire game shadowing Panuccio and allowed him very little space, which led to some frustration on Panuccio’s part. He felt every little jab in the back, elbow in the ribs, poke at his ankles and every grab of the shirt that Sullivan used. But Sullivan was successful throughout the contest and held Panuccio to one shot on goal.
“They are a very good team and we knew they would be physical and fast,” Hershey coach Les Heggan said. “We can play them physical but we don’t have the speed or depth that Mechanicsburg has. They are well-coached and we knew we had to control Panuccio and (Zac) Sherman. Andrew Cronin did a nice job keeping Sherman in front and Andrew Sullivan did everything we asked him to do and more. He was the difference in the game.”
Hershey’s defense was physical but almost too physical. Mechanicsburg was awarded a penalty kick on a take down and Sherman’s blast beat Trojan keeper Coleman Dieffenbach but clanked off the crossbar and bounded away and with it a great chance for the Wildcats to tie the contest and gain some momentum.
The two teams went toe-to-toe the rest of the contest but the defenses proved to be up to the task and sent balls back up the field. Both teams also sport tall defenders who were able to head crosses out of danger.
Both keepers — Dieffenbach for Hershey and Brandon Diehl for Mechanicsburg — each totaled five saves over the final 50 minutes. Both teams had chances but knocked crosses wide or over the net.
Mechanicsburg came out a bit more aggressive in the second half but just couldn’t finish. Alex Gehman, Dylan Snyder, and Kyle Edgar gave the Wildcats some good minutes and transitioned the ball well down the field in an attempt to find Sherman or Panuccio. Brad Powell also got off two good looks but one hit the keeper and the other hit the outside of the net.
Hershey’s defense supported the effort of Dieffenbach, who did a nice job of communicating to his backs what he was seeing form the goal mouth.
“We had our chances and I felt we did a good job of taking it to them for stretches of time,” Wildcat coach Tony Lougee said. “We gave up the early goal but we had the chance to tie the game on the penalty kick and that could have been a different story if we score there. It was a typical Hershey-Mechanicsburg game and we expected that. We just didn’t get that finish.”
Hershey improved to 9-0 on the season and 6-0 in the division. They have defeated the top two teams in the division (CD East and the Wildcats) but still must face Lower Dauphin next week in the battle for Hershey.