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Blue Raider boys soccer starts out with two wins in busy week

Posted 9/12/18

By Mitch Spear

Special to the Press & Journal

The Middletown Blue Raiders boys soccer team opened the 2018 season with a busy schedule, playing five games in seven days and winning …

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Blue Raider boys soccer starts out with two wins in busy week


By Mitch Spear

Special to the Press & Journal

The Middletown Blue Raiders boys soccer team opened the 2018 season with a busy schedule, playing five games in seven days and winning two.

The Raiders (2-3) return to the pitch for two away games this week. The first was scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11, against repeat state champions Camp Hill at 6:30 p.m. at Siebert Park. They play Milton Hershey at 4 p.m. Thursday.

The season kicked off Sept. 1 with the Wyomissing Spartans invitational tournament that was moved to the artificial turf of Schuylkill Valley as a result of heavy rains and unplayable fields at Wyomissing.

Middletown 2, Schuylkill Valley 1

In Game 1, the Raiders played the Schuylkill Valley Panthers in the oppressive heat and were able to secure the first victory of the season, 2-1.

The Raiders enjoyed the majority of pressure and scoring chances, playing a high-press game and spending the majority of time in their offensive third.

The first shot of the game was by Ben Knisely from about 20 yards out that was well struck but went just wide.

After numerous additional shots, the Raiders were able to break onto the scoreboard. Anthony Lavia received the deep throw-in from Knisely and was able to work hard with the dribble and strike the ball toward the Panthers keeper, who was not able to handle the blast cleanly. The resulting shot squeaked through and rolled directly toward the middle of the goal frame, where Joey Spear finished his run and hammered the ball home into the open net for the Raider 1-0 lead.

Despite the Panthers having difficulty crossing the halfway line, they did get the equalizer when the speed of their striker, Brian Porter, was able to beat the defense backs and take on Caleb Springer one-on-one in goal. Springer did well to make the initial save. However, the ball took a fortuitous bounce right back to the striker who made good with the second attempt with his head.

The Raiders were quick to respond with the game winner when Lavia was able to collect a defensive miss clear. Using his speed, he split through two defenders and sped past a third before shooting beyond the reach of the Panther keeper diving to his right.

Wyomissing 5, Middletown 0

With the victory, the Raiders played the Wyomissing Spartans, victors in their first game, for the tournament championship. The contest was a rematch of last year’s district playoff meeting when the Raiders fell 3-2.

The rematch, however, was not nearly as close or entertaining. This year’s outcome was as much determined off the pitch as on, as injuries and weather conditions influenced the results.

The Raiders were strong in the first half with several early chances. The first good chance was from Lavia when he was dispossessed deep in the Spartans defense and the ball fell to the foot of Mason Garza. Garza’s attempt was on frame but the keeper was able to steer it just wide.

Wyomissing responded with a break down the flank that Aiden Sessa was able to track down to prevent the goal from the speedy forward. However, moments later the Spartan midfielder was able to chip a shot over the reach of Springer and under the crossbar, putting the Spartans up, 1-0.

The only goal in the first half proved to be all that was needed for the Spartans. In the second half of the contest, the Raiders were plagued by injury. Already missing players to concussion protocol and heat exhaustion, the majority of the midfield had experienced cramping during the second half as the heat and two games prevented them from being competitive in the second half. The Spartan tallied 4 more goals on route to winning the season opening tournament. 

Middletown 4, McDevitt 0

On Tuesday, the Raiders returned to action against their divisional foes of Bishop McDevitt.

The Crusaders were first to shoot from a midfield turnover that sailed harmlessly over the crossbar from 20 yards out. However, the Raiders were able to score first when Spear pressured the defense deep in their end of the field into an errant pass that was intercepted by Griffen Meyer. Meyer played a great through pass to Lavia at top speed, who was able to push the ball beyond the Crusaders keeper for the one-goal advantage.

The Crusaders were close to equalizing when Springer came out of net to challenge the striker leaving the net open. The chip shot was heading towards goal when Sessa sprinted back and made the goal saving header directing it safely away from frame.

The Raiders were able to take a two-goal lead when Lavia passed to Spear making a diagonal run to the right of goal. Spear moving to his right was able to shoot far post over the keeper and hit side netting for the 2-0 advantage.

After a mandatory water break because of the heat, the Raiders seemed content to play conservatively and pack the defensive third. The Raiders defense of Garrett Miller, Johnny Jumper, Sessa and Edgar Lopez was stout and stayed goal side of their attackers preventing shooting lanes and penetration off the dribble.

The Crusaders were able to muster a great chance. After Springer made the initial save, the ball bounced out directly center of the net about 12 yards out when the subsequent follow-up shot was rifled to the left of Springer. Springer was up for the challenge and made the strong-handed save while diving to his right.

The Raiders tallied two more in the second half. The first was when Meyer was fouled in the box. Garza struck the penalty kick in the upper corner to make it 3-0. The last goal came from Brady Keyser to Knisely, who sent a great ball to Lavia who made a nice run past the Crusader defensive line. Lavia was able to collect the pass and direct the ball past the keeper for the 4-0 final.

Springer ended the game with 11 saves recording his first varsity shutout.

“All four of our goals were well earned. We played very cohesively as a unit. Our defenders did well to have each other’s back and deserved the shutout,” coach Brian Keyser said.

West Perry 2, Middletown 0

On Sept. 4, the Raiders had their home opener against the West Perry Mustangs.

West Perry began the game strong with short passes and playing a connected possession game. Enjoying much of the possession, the Mustangs had capitalized on the long corner taken by Josh Collins to Anthony Kertulis, who was able to head the ball softly but well placed to just kiss the far post and into the net.

The teamwork of Collins to Kertulis proved difficult for the Raiders, as they continued to play connected and look for each other on the direct kicks and throw-ins. However, the Raiders defended this combination and the speed of the Mustangs well as it was not until the individual effort of Collins on the dribble that created the space needed to shoot.

Collins’ strike was a pretty goal that was just over the reach of Springer and under the crossbar.

The score line remained unchanged in the second half as the Mustangs preserved the 2-0 win.

“We need to learn how to put two good games back to back. Our performance in the first half was lacking the energy we had against McDevitt. The second half was improved, we just could not find a way to score,” Keyser said.

Susquehanna Township 2, Middletown 1, overtime

The Raiders completed their busy week at home against the Indians of Susquehanna Township on Sept. 6.

The Indians were first to score when miscommunication between the Raider defense and Springer resulted in the Indians’ speedy striker to sidestep the defense and push the ball to his right and around the Raider goalie.

This touch created the open net chance for Erasto Omolo. Omolo made good of the chance and buried the ball home for the 1-0 early advantage.

The goal left the Raiders flat for the remainder of the first half. The Raiders found it difficult to possess the ball or connect passes. They were also beaten to the majority of the 50-50 balls, resulting in the Indians controlling the pace of the game.

A hard foul suffered by Spear in the box changed things. Spear was able to establish inside position on the defense. The foul from behind resulted in a penalty kick for the Raiders.

Garza took the pursuing penalty and evened up the score when he caught the keeper jumping early, diving to his right, while he struck the ball center of net.

The goal seemed to energize the Raiders and they began to win the 50-50 balls and generate more scoring chances. The Raiders pressure resulted in three additional direct kicks late in the contest. However, unable to capitalize on these late chances, the game went into extra time.

The Raiders nearly got the winner when Meyer was met by the keeper coming off his line to challenge the shot. The shot deflected high moving toward the center of goal where the center defenseman and Spear met simultaneously. Spear was able to get the shot around the defender, but just wide of the frame.

The Indians eventually got the game-winner when a penalty kick was awarded and the defense was called for holding in the box during a corner kick. When asked about the call, “controversial” was all that Keyser would say.

The resulting penalty kick was taken by Duncan Andrews, who was able to shoot the ball past Springer diving to his right.

Junior varsity

The Middletown junior varsity only played two games this week.

They fell to Bishop McDevitt and played to a scoreless draw against West Perry.

Dane Ebersole recorded his first shutout of the season.