Going to the finals — Red Land soccer wins close game over Mechanicsburg in D-3AAA semis

It wasn’t so easy for the Red Land boys’ soccer team this time around, but the Patriots escaped with the win all the same.

After beating Mechanicsburg 3-0 this regular season, Red Land used a fluke goal late in the first half and withstood a furious Mechanicsburg rally to edge Mechanicsburg 1-0 in the District 3 Class AAA semifinals in a game that not too many people would have predicted.

The victory sets up an all Mid-Penn Commonwealth Division final. The Patriots (15-6) are set to take on Central Dauphin (18-5 overall) on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium for the District 3-AAA title. Central Dauphin edged Warwick 3-2 on a late goal Wednesday.

By Jeffrey Kauffman, Nov. 5, 2009

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The AAA final will be the third of the three title games in District 3. The Wildcats will tangle with Warwick on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Northeastern High School in the tail end of a triple-header.

Both teams finished third in their respective divisions of the Mid-Penn but remain two of the final three teams from those two divisions.

Mechanicsburg (15-7) controlled the first half and created several key opportunities. Matt Steele and Austin Martz each had a crack but the Patriots defense was up to the task.

The Patriots had only one chance in the opening half but Joe Butera’s shot rolled into goalkeeper Shane Cowoski.

Red Land, winners of ten straight games, got on the board on a corner kick. Tyler Gay fed the corner wide toward the right edge of the box to Sean Fettrow. His cross drifted toward the far corner of the goal. Cowoski went up to snag the ball and as he landed he stepped to gather his balance. His step crossed the plane of the goal and the line official ruled it a goal immediately stating the ball crossed the plane of the goal. The score gave the Patriots a 1-0 lead with just over seven minutes left in the half.

“It was nice to have that lead going into that last half,” Skonecki said. “On Strausbaugh’s shot, I was just praying and hoping Hoover had a long goal kick out of here. No one picked us to be here and we are just playing like we belong here. Our defense, especially (Seth) Hoover, (Sam) Aumiller and Dane Mehalko have stepped up and we haven’t given up a goal yet in the playoffs. Today I was the luckiest guy out there. I try my best and today I happened to be in the right spot a few times.”

Mechanicsburg had numerous chances to score in the second half and some time after the contest Patriots keeper Aaron Skonecki might have finally taken a breath or two. The Wildcats were all over the Patriots and again led by Steele and Martz, the latter of which had a couple of rips that Skonecki was somehow able to cover. Martz fed across that David Strausbaugh volleyed off the goal post and rolled away. Skonecki had to punch a Steele blast over the crossbar.

“I thought our guys played very well,” Wildcats coach Tony Lougee said. “I was very happy with our play. We played with intensity and we created a ton of quality chances and we didn’t give up many chances. The goal occurred as the ball crossed the plane of the goal when Shane stepped back.

“This was a tough loss but our kids have shown a lot of character and they will come out to play Saturday. Nobody has given this group credit for how far they have come this year.”

“A win is a win,” Red Land head coach Eric White said. “We didn’t play well at all. They turned on a switch and Martz was all over the place. It looked like we were cones and they were all over us. I’ll thank our best friend the left post. We bent but didn’t break again. We didn’t have many chances but we put one on net and you can’t score if the ball is not on net. We have a lot of work to do for Saturday. We expected to be here last year but not this year. A credit to our kids who have played well together. We have only given up three goals in the last ten games.”

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