Con­estoga is Her­shey bound

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bruce Adams badams@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @mline­s­ports on Twit­ter

It seemed fit­ting that Con­estoga squeezed out a 1-0 win with a sec­ond-half goal in its PIAA Class AAAA boys soc­cer semi­fi­nal against North Al­legheny Tues­day night at Cham­bers­burg High School.

The bat­tle-tested Pioneers (241) have made a habit this fall of win­ning ra­zor-close games by scor­ing in the fi­nal min­utes. Con­estoga has scored nine game-win­ning goals in the last 10 min­utes of games or in over­time this sea­son.

This time, the game-win­ner was scored a lit­tle ear­lier. Nick Jen­nings tal­lied the game’s lone goal, head­ing the ball off a re­bound and into the net with 31:37 left.

“I was re­ally ex­cited when I saw

saw the ball go in the net for about 10 sec­onds,” said Jen­nings. “But then I re­al­ized we still had 30 min­utes left to play.”

His goal cul­mi­nated a rapid-fire suc­ces­sion of three shots at the North Al­legheny net. The first two shots, by Jen­nings and Ma­son Miller, were stopped by point-blank saves by North Al­legheny goalie Grant Glo­rioso.

Jen­nings said, “Lo­gan [Schwartz] got the ball out wide left, I ran in be­hind the cen­ter back, and Lo­gan crossed it. I headed it [the first time] and hit the ground, and the ball didn’t go in. When I got up, the ball was head­ing to­ward me, and I hit it in.”

What made this vic­tory par­tic­u­larly sweet was that, last fall, Con­estoga lost in the PIAA state semi­fi­nal.

“We were def­i­nitely mo­ti­vated by last year’s [state semi­fi­nal] loss, and we still are,” said Jen­nings. “When the game ended, my first thought was chocolate - we’re go­ing to Her­shey. Then, af­ter our post-game hud­dle, as­sis­tant coach Blake Stabert tossed Her­shey bars in the air for all of us to catch, and ev­ery­body got one.”

Con­estoga head coach David Zim­mer­man, asked about the Pioneers’ sea­son-long habit of scor­ing game-win­ners in the fi­nal min­utes, re­ferred to the Pioneers’ ex­pe­ri­ence - both in the post-sea­son, and in tight games.

“We had a long post­sea­son run last year, and this year, we’ve played and won - a lot of tight games dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son,” said Zim­mer­man. “Three times we’ve trailed in games, and come back to win. So when we get into a tight game, it’s like, ‘Been there, done that.’”

The Con­estoga coach also pointed out that Tues­day night’s win was the 25th post-sea­son game in the Con­estoga ca­reers of each of the trio known as the “Three Ami­gos” - se­nior de­fender Gabe Harms, se­nior for­ward Ma­son Miller and se­nior mid­fielder Blaise Mi­lanek.

Con­estoga will face El­iz­a­beth­town (22-41), the sec­ond seed from District 3, at Her­shey Sta­dium Satur­day at 6:30 p.m. in the PIAA state cham­pi­onship fi­nal. El­iz­a­beth­town de­feated West Ch­ester Hen­der­son in penalty kicks in the other state semi­fi­nal Tues­day, its sec­ond straight win by PKs. Hen­der­son handed Con­estoga its only loss of the sea­son in the PIAA District One fi­nal, and ear­lier in the sea­son, the Pioneers de­feated the War­riors 2-1.

“We’re a lot more fa­mil­iar with Hen­der­son than El­iz­a­beth­town, but we’ll have a few days to do some re­search on [El­iz­a­beth­town],” said Zim­mer­man. “I know they’ve been win­ning in over­time, and they have mo­men­tum - it would be a mis­take to un­der­es­ti­mate them.”

The Pioneers didn’t un­der­es­ti­mate North Al­legheny, the District 7 cham­pi­ons. Con­estoga de­parted Ber­wyn at 2 p.m. Tues­day, and reached Cham­bers­burg at around 4:30 p.m., which gave them plenty of time to warm up and get ac­cli­mated. The warmed-up Pioneers made nine shots on goal in the first half.

“I thought we played bet­ter than [North Al­legheny] in the first half, but I thought they played bet­ter than us in the sec­ond,” said Zim­mer­man. “Our de­fense played well tonight, par­tic­u­larly cen­ter back Will Klein. And [goalie] Luke Smith played well, did a good jub manag­ing the box and made some solid saves.” Con­estoga 1, North Al­legheny 0

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