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Middletown boys soccer tops Milton Hershey

Posted 9/18/19

The Middletown boys soccer team split a pair of games last week and stand at 2-5 on the season.

The Raiders returned to the pitch Tuesday at Trinity and will finish the week at home against East …

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Middletown boys soccer tops Milton Hershey

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The Middletown boys soccer team split a pair of games last week and stand at 2-5 on the season.

The Raiders returned to the pitch Tuesday at Trinity and will finish the week at home against East Pennsboro for a 4 p.m. kickoff Thursday at the Reid Elementary School field.

Camp Hill 1, Middletown 0

The Blue Raiders played with the Camp Hill Lions on Sept. 10, and although they did not come away with the victory, there were signs of improved play and better team chemistry against a disciplined, defensively organized Camp Hill team.

“This was a difficult game to lose. Our goalie (Caleb Springer) was fantastic, and the one goal we allowed was not his fault. Our defense overall played well enough to get a result, but we just didn’t create enough opportunities on goal. We made too many unforced errors, and a disciplined team like Camp Hill will punish you for it. It was a step in the right direction, but still a disappointing result,” coach Brian Keyser said.

The first scoring chance came to the Lions when Eric Blanton took a strong cross directed far post that had to be cleared by the Raider defense to avoid the header of the opposing forwards.

The Raiders answered with a scoring chance of their own that came from a sequence of passing in the middle to offensive third of the field. The combination of one- and two-touch passing from Joey Spear to Johnny Jumper, back to Spear and lastly to Dagan Hughes in space looked promising. However, the Lion defense closed rapidly on Hughes and blocked the left footed attempt.

The Lions responded off the quick counter attack when Liam Raney got behind the Raider defense. Garrett Millet did well to close down on him in space, forcing the Lions’ attacker to rush his shot.

However, Blanton’s attack out wide for the Lions continued to provide difficulties for the Raiders. Eventually his efforts beat the Raider wingback, and Blanton tight roped the end line. With ball on foot, he was able to cross up the central defense and force Springer to hold near post in goal. With Springer holding post, Blanton played diagonal ball against direction of play to a wide-open Kyle Pickering standing 8 yards out in the center of goal for the one-timer to make it 1-0.

The goal came in the first 30 minutes of play, and proved to be all the Lions needed to secure the victory.

Despite the low score, both teams continued to generate scoring attempts. The Raiders had a good chance off the corner when Miller found the foot of Griffin Meyer unmarked at the far corner of the 18. Meyer’s one-timer sailed wide.

Meyer’s second chance happened seconds later when Spear was fouled just outside the box and Meyer took the direct kick quickly that was partly deflected over the goal for a Raider corner kick.

The Raiders completed the half with the better of possession, but failed to earn the equalizer.

The second half of play was fairly even with both teams earning their chance for goals. The Raiders’ chances came from possession and building the attack. However, the creativity in the final third of the field was lacking and unable to break down the defensive back four of the Lions.

With the Raiders unable to find passing lanes in the offensive third, the Raiders were forced to take shots from distance in the Lions’ second level of defense. The high press left the Raiders vulnerable to the counter-attack. However, the defense of Levi Ettu, Justin Wright and Jaron Imler, and anchored by Miller, played the trap well, catching Raney and the Lion strikers offsides several times.

The few times the Lions were able to break the trap, Springer was up to the challenge coming off his line to either clear the ball with his foot, or make the diving save after attacking the ball and cutting down the shooting angle.

Springer’s superb efforts kept the Raiders in the game for two potential late-game equalizers. The first was from Hughes on a direct kick just outside the box that Lions’ keeper, Jackson Basom, had to push wide in an effort to prevent it going in the far corner of net. The last was off the corner with less than two minutes remaining in the game when Joe Cuneo found room with the header, but could not quite get the elevation needed to direct it on goal.

Middletown 3, Milton Hershey 0

The Raiders’ improved play against Camp Hill carried over to their Thursday matchup vs. Milton Hershey. Their efforts were rewarded in a 3-0 victory, with the Raiders in control for much of the game.

“Definitely our best performance of the year so far. We got an early goal, and that really gave us the confidence we needed to play our game. We had some good combination play, and our midfield dictated the action. And getting the shutout was important, because our defense has really played well despite our results, and they deserved to get that honor,” Keyser said.

The Raiders got on the board early when Daniel Lugo won the ball back in the midfield from the Spartans and found Miller. Miller on the dribble moved to the touch line and spotted Dominic DiBernardo standing about 15 yards off his goal line. Miller’s quick shot from about 40 yards surprised the Spartans’ keeper, who could only watch the ball sail over his head into the goal for a 1-0 Raider lead.

Milton Hershey nearly leveled the score when Evan Powers played a perfectly weighted ball in space to Jack Muller at top speed. The combination of Ettu and Miller were able to track back and dispossess Muller, who slowed his pace with the ball on foot.

The Raiders earned a second goal with continuous pressure in the offensive third. This time, Hughes was able to create an open look on the dribble in the Spartans’ second level of defense. The rifled shot was set up by moving center of goal and striking the ball back hard to the far post to make it 2-0 Raiders.

The next three chances were also in favor of the Raiders.

The first came when Meyer took the corner kick and found Lugo for a header attempt that sailed far post and over the goal. The second came from Gavin Guckavan crossing the ball from out wide to Jaden Miller, whose partially blocked shot fell out of play for another Raider corner kick. The third was when Spear made a nice turn in the corner of the field and was able to beat his defender and cross the ball to Brady Keyser, who made a timely run to lose his defender for an open look 10 yards from the center of goal. The one-timer however could not be steered on frame and went just wide far post.

The rains opened up and created some sloppy play and several misplayed balls. However, the Raiders were able to score one more in the second half indirectly off the corner. After several failed clearance attempts from the Milton Hershey defense, the ball fell to Hughes, who was hanging back in space. Hughes took a quick touch to his left to create a shooting lane and ripped the ball for the third and final goal of the game.

Springer was able to preserve the victory and the second Raider shutout on the season when Tristan Gyamfi broke down the Raider defense and forced Springer to make a great sprawling save on the one-on-one attempt.