GLORY ROAD

Con­estoga rev­els in cham­pi­onship feel­ing af­ter 1-0 win in state ti­tle game

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

As the fi­nal sec­onds ticked off in Con­estoga’s 1-0 win against El­iz­a­beth­town for the PIAA Class AAAA boys’ soc­cer state cham­pi­onship Satur­day at Her­shey­park Sta­dium, the Pi­o­neers (25-1) rev­eled in the feel­ing of their first state ti­tle since 2011.

Con­estoga se­nior mid­fielder Blaise Mi­lanek said, “All my emo­tions started kick­ing in. I re­al­ized all the hard work we did the en­tire year, since last Au­gust, had paid off. All the mem­o­ries from last year [los­ing in the state semi­fi­nal] came flood­ing back, and I re­al­ized this time we won it all. It’s beau­ti­ful.”

Pi­o­neer ju­nior for­ward Chris Dono­van, who scored the game-win­ning goal with 18:48 left in the game, said while hold­ing a large Her­shey bar, “I was as­ton­ished, over­whelmed, when I re­al­ized we had just taken the big­gest prize we could win.”

Con­estoga se­nior de­fender Gabe Harms, who couldn’t stop smil­ing, said, “My first thought when the game was over was that we achieved the goal I set for my­self when I walked into Con­estoga High School my fresh­man year. And to win this ti­tle in front of 3,000 fans is the best feel­ing in the world - it makes you feel like a pro­fes­sional soc­cer player.”

Pi­o­neer se­nior mid­fielder Ma­son Miller said, “My first thought was just rem­i­nisc­ing [about my Con­estoga soc­cer ca­reer]. I’m just tak­ing in the mo­ment.”

This was the third state ti­tle for Con­estoga, who also won it in 1988 and 2011, the lat­ter one un­der cur­rent head coach David Zim­mer­man. This year’s team had a trio of play­ers - Mi­lanek, Miller and Harms, known by their team­mates as “The Three Ami­gos” - each of whom had played at least two dozen post-sea­son games in a Con­estoga uni­form.

Zim­mer­man said, “When the game ended, I felt tremen­dous re­lief. The first day af­ter our try­outs, we set a goal for our­selves to win the state ti­tle. This isn’t some­thing I nor­mally do. And it’s tough when there’s high

ex­pec­ta­tions, there’s a lot of [self-im­posed] pres­sure to live up to them.”

Con­estoga pretty much dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion against El­iz­a­beth­town (22-5-1) Satur­day evening, keep­ing the ball deep in Bears’ ter­ri­tory much of the game, in­clud­ing the last cou­ple of min­utes. And they made nu­mer­ous shots on goal, and El­iz­a­beth­town ju­nior goalie Austin Den­linger, who made more than a dozen saves in the Bears’ riv­et­ing state semi­fi­nal win, stopped 13 Con­estoga shots Satur­day evening. But Dono­van’s shot got by Den­linger in the sec­ond half, and it was all the Pi­o­neers needed.

Con­estoga ju­nior de­fender Nick Jen­nings, who as­sisted on Dono­van’s goal, said, “I brought the ball up the left side of the field, tried to get the ball in the box, and I saw Chris open. When I saw Chris take it down into the left cor­ner of the goal, I felt so ex­cited, I felt the adrenalin rush­ing through my body. And to do it in this at­mos­phere [in front of all the fans at Her­shey­park Sta­dium] was awe­some.”

Dono­van said, “When Nick gave the ball to me, I saw an open­ing, and knocked it in. When I saw the ball go in the net, I just wanted to go over and hug all of my team­mates.”

The wet, snowy con­di­tions Satur­day evening at Her­shey­park Sta­dium pre­sented a chal­lenge for both teams. Ear­lier in the day, the tem­per­a­ture was a balmy 65 de­grees, and the sun shone brightly. But by game time, a cold front had swept through the area, the tem­per­a­ture dropped 30 de­grees in just a cou­ple of hours, and a com­bi­na­tion of rain and wet snow was fall­ing, and the wet snow stuck to the ar­ti­fi­cial turf.

Miller said, “I thought the ball would skip on the turf, but it turned out the snow slowed the ball down, and we were able to play it pretty well.”

Harms said, “I thought the ball was go­ing to slide a lot tonight, but it didn’t. And we played good enough on [the turf] to win the state cham­pi­onship.”

El­iz­a­beth­town, which had never even won a state play­off game prior to this fall, had an in­spi­ra­tional run to the fi­nals. But when it was over, Con­estoga held the state cham­pi­onship tro­phy.

Jen­nings added, “I’ve been think­ing about [get­ting to the state ti­tle game and win­ning it] for the last three months. I’ll never for­get the mo­ment the game was over and we won.”

MARK PALCEWSKI — SPE­CIAL TO DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Con­estoga play­ers re­act af­ter de­feat­ing EL­iz­a­beth­town, 1-0, in the PIAA Class AAAA boys soc­cer cham­pi­onship at Her­shey­park Sta­dium on Satur­day.

MARK PALCEWSKI — SPE­CIAL TO DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Jeff Charles (14) of Con­estoga heads the ball against Ai­den Grey Fer­tich and Colin Wie­and (24) of El­iz­a­beth­town in the first half Satur­day.

MARK PALCEWSKI — SPE­CIAL TO DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Con­estoga play­ers con­grat­u­late Chris Dono­van’s goal in the sec­ond half against El­iz­a­beth­town on Satur­day.

MARK PALCEWSKI — SPE­CIAL TO DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Con­estoga re­acts mo­ments af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle of Satur­day’s 1-0 win over El­iz­a­beth­town in the PIAA ti­tle game.

MARK PALCEWSKI — SPE­CIAL TO DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Gabe Harms (1) of Con­estoga looks to pass the ball against Jon Gart­ley (20) of El­iz­a­beth­town in the sec­ond half Satur­day.

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