Tom DeMartini | Penn Live
The uphill battle that faced the Central Dauphin boys soccer team at halftime of Saturday’s PIAA 4A quarterfinal suddenly became a mountainous traverse in the early minutes of the second half.
A red card ejection issued to a CD player forced the Rams to play the remainder of the game a man down against Peters Township, who already enjoyed a 1-0 lead. The Indians scored a key goal in the 63rd minute to take a two goal lead and subsequently, two more CD red card ejections were issued, putting the Rams down three men.
The District 3, Class 4A champions, who showed resilience all season, couldn’t recover from that much adversity and dropped a 2-0 decision to Peters Township at Hollidaysburg High School.
“It didn’t go our way. It’s playoff soccer. We were a little too long and didn’t play calm enough in the first half,” said Central Dauphin coach Neil Cooper, “We got caught in possession too much rather than playing as quickly as I wanted us to. But when we played quick, it was all direct rather than the short, quick combinations that we’re very good at.”
The Rams fell behind just 2:40 into the match on a deflected free kick from Austin Marmol that found its way past CD goalkeeper Eric Axtman. Peters Township contained Central Dauphin attackers for the majority of the first half. The Rams have successfully played from behind this postseason, however, there was no such magic on this night.
“Unfortunately, we let our emotions get the best of us in the second half,” Cooper said. “Some calls didn’t go our way, some calls that we felt were pretty harsh on us and not being reciprocated the other way. But, you still have to be able to manage that and unfortunately, we didn’t.”
Axtman made a highlight reel save, diving across the goal mouth to keep the score at 1-0 in the 43rd minute. A great crossing play off a CD free kick with the Rams a man down got past the Peters Township keeper and appeared headed into the net in the 53rd minute, but an Indians defender headed the ball away at the last instant.
Finally, Peters Township took advantage of the short-handed situation with Steven Suchko finishing a handsome feed from Nathan Froelich in the 63rd minute for the key insurance goal. The Rams then piled up the red cards, going down two — and then three men — and couldn’t muster a late response.
“They press hard and they’re incredibly physical,” Cooper said of Peters Township. “When referees are letting the physicality go, it knocks you out of rhythm, because you feel you can’t play your game. Things are being called and things are working against you and so because of that, you never quite find the rhythm you need to get into.”
Central Dauphin finishes a memorable season with a 21-1 record. Peters Township (18-2-1), the District 7 runner-up, advances to face District 7 champion Seneca Valley Tuesday in a rematch.
“We had a hell of a season,” Cooper said. “Our message to them is that it wasn’t the ultimate finished that they wanted, but they have a special season, one that they can be incredibly proud of. We were unbeaten District champions and that does not happen very often. We deserve that title. We’re one of the best eight teams in the state.”