Dallastown drops District 3 title game to Central Dauphin in overtime, 2-1
Dallastown planned to lean heavily on its defense against Central Dauphin, and its plan nearly worked.
The Wildcats wanted to create chances off the counter attack and were willing to concede possession and play with the ball in their end for most of the game. With a one-goal lead and under three minutes left on the clock, it seemed the strategy would succeed.
However, the Rams had different plans.
After generating several shots on goal throughout the game, the Rams finally found the back of the net. Central Dauphin tied the game with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left in regulation. One minute into overtime Central Dauphin struck again to secure the District 3 Class 4-A boys' soccer title with a 2-1 win.
"For 78 minutes it worked beautifully, and then for the past five minutes, it all went to crap," Dallastown head coach Andrew Foust said. "I'm proud of our boys. Central Dauphin is the No. 2 team in the state for a reason, but neither of our seasons are done. We're gonna recover after tonight and we look forward to playing on Tuesday (in the state playoffs)."
The Rams' hero was senior Luke Johnson, who delivered the game-winning goal shortly after overtime began. The ball was sent in and the Wildcats failed to clear it before the shot ended their championship dreams.
As the final minutes of regulation ticked away, it appeared cracks in the undefeated Central Dauphin team had begun to show. The Rams failed at a few runs and started to sail balls over teammates' heads on passes.
But, as CD sensed its chance to claim the title slipping away, goalkeeper Eric Axtman sent the ball up field. Central Dauphin's Carter Fitzgerald tied the game after the ball bounced around the box seven times before it fell to his feet and he buried it into the back of the net.
Dallastown took the lead in the first half on a goal by senior Zander Leik. Senior Carlos Rivas delivered a ball into the box from nearly the same spot Axtman did later on and after sophomore Nathan Winslow's shot was denied by Axtman, Leik drilled the rebound into bottom left corner of the net.
"That's exactly what we practiced yesterday," Foust said. "We knew that's how we were going to have a chance and it worked on the first goal."
Leik had another chance to score late in the match which could have locked in the win for the Wildcats.
After a throw in by the Rams, Leik received the ball and sprinted down the right side of the field. With pressure from a defender coming from his left, he tried to slide a low shot to the left side of the net, but Axtman kicked it away with his right foot and kept the lead at 1-0. Moments later, the Rams tied the score.
After the match, the teams exchanged some charged words after they shook hands. it was the third straight District 3 postseason they played each other and Foust said it hurt the team a little more to lose the title to Central Dauphin. The Rams won the title game in 2019 and Dallastown took the 2020 meeting.
"They are our new District 3 rivals, which is something that just shows how well both of our programs have done the past couple years that we can have that rivalry going into a postseason three years in a row," Foust said.
Despite the difficult loss that saw the championship trophy get snatched away from them minutes before they could celebrate, the Wildcats will take the field again.
With state playoffs set to start next week, Foust expected his team to need a day or two to get over this game before it could prepare to make a run at another championship.
"They're teenage boys, it's gonna sting a little bit," Foust said. "Especially right now and probably even tomorrow morning because some of those guys have played three overtime games now in a row, but we were going to use that as motivation moving forward and just one game at a time. We don't look forward to two weeks. That's our goal, but we know we got to win our game on Tuesday."
Dallastown will open state play on Tuesday at District 2 champion Hazleton at 4:45 p.m.
Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.