Monday, January 22, 2018
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Bears bite Mounts

A two-score lead for Elizabethtown had evaporated in the final 16 minutes of regulation, as Ephrata pulled even to send things to overtime.

And the Mounts kept a foot on the gas in the extra period, too, with one shot a minute in and another shot four minutes later that would’ve went in if not for E-town keeper Austin Denlinger getting a piece of the ball with his fingertips to send it off the left post to keep the game going.

Three minutes later, with the Lancaster-Lebanon League boys soccer Section Two crown on the line, Bears’ junior midfielder Braden Kreider lined up for a corner kick with intentions to send a boot to the back post, where teammate Colin Wieand usually waited with thoughts to knock it in with a header.

And while Kreider’s kick did go to the back post, the ball instead curved as it soared through the air, curling just inside the top-right corner to give E-town a dramatic 3-2 walk-off win in OT.

“I can’t believe it,” Kreider said post-game. “I’ve never even attempted that. I can’t believe that just happened.”

On the final night of the L-L League regular season, E-town’s win means the Bears (13-3-1 overall, 11-2-1 league) finish tied with Ephrata (14-3-1, 11-2-1) and Lampeter-Strasburg (11-5-1, 11-2-1) for first place in L-L Section Two. As a result, all three are co-champions. For seeding purposes for the opening round of Saturday’s L-L League tournament quarterfinals, the No. 1 seed out of Section Two goes to E-town, as the Bears have now technically won three-straight section crowns.

“We were like ‘You know what? When we walk away we want to know we’re the No. 1 team,” E-town coach James Sostack said. “But hats off to Ephrata. They really came after us in the overtime. We started running out of gas.”

Back-and-forth second half: After a scoreless first half, E-town jumped out to a 2-0 lead when Adan Perez scored in the 45th minute and David Shank put one in off the left post in the 49th minute.

The momentum swung in Ephrata’s favor when the Mounts’ deficit was cut to 2-1 on an own goal in the 65th minute. Gabe Sensenig tied it three minutes later off of an assist from Andrey Patrushev.

The game nearly ended in Ephrata’s favor in the 85th minute when a Mounts’ shot went off the fingertips of Denlinger (seven saves) to deflect the ball off the post to keep the game alive - and likely causing some hearts to skip a beat for fans in attendance.

“Austin has been consistent. Everyone think he’s one of these unsung heroes for our team but Austin...we think he is one of the best in the league,” Sostack said. “I think he showed that tonight. He made some excellent saves against some excellent strikers. He’s talented. He’s quick. That finger-tip save to get it off the post that was the result of him getting his fingertips to it. I don’t think any other keeper does that.”

L-L tournament: Saturday marks the beginning of the eight-team L-L League tournament with four quarterfinal games. The top half of the bracket has Section One champion Hempfield (17-1, 12-0) facing Lampeter-Strasburg at 12 p.m. at Conestoga Valley, while Section Three co-champion Lancaster Mennonite (15-1-2, 12-0-2) faces Conestoga Valley (7-7-2, 6-4-2) at 4 p.m. at Penn Manor.

The bottom half of the bracket features Section One runner-up Warwick (11-4-2, 8-3-1) against Ephrata at 12 p.m. at Cocalico and E-town against Section Three co-champ Elco (14-2-2, 12-0-2) at 12 p.m. at Manheim Central.

Tuesday’s semifinal games will be played at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Penn Manor, and Thursday’s championship game is slated for a 7 p.m. start at Warwick.