RED LION — Soccer isn’t a sport that lends itself to frantic finishes, but Red Lion’s boys’ soccer match against Dallastown Thursday had all the ingredients of a thrilling finish.
Dallastown trailed 2-1 and had several chances at the end of regulation to send the match to overtime.
It all started when the Wildcats were awarded a free kick from midfield with one minute remaining.
The next 60 seconds saw the Wildcats hectically kick two corners and an additional cross after a throw-in that led to three goal opportunities — none of which found the back of the net. As they did for most of the game, Red Lion’s defense and goalkeeper Levi McKeever were stingy in the last minute to bring home the 2-1 victory and remain undefeated in York-Adams Division I play.
“The game could’ve gone either way,” Red Lion head coach Mike Watt said. “Free kicks (and crosses) are going to happen. We wanted to have as many bodies back as we possibly could and hope for the best.”
McKeever, who tallied five saves in the win, punched out two crosses in the last minute to secure the victory.
“I don’t think about it too much,” McKeever said about pressure situations. “I try not to think, because if I do, I can overthink it. I just do what comes natural.”
Despite taking a 2-0 lead in the first half, Red Lion (6-1 overall, 6-0 in D-I) saw itself staving off Dallastown’s offense most of the second half. The Wildcats led in the possession category and outshot the Lions 15-8, though most of those weren’t on goal.
“We played better,” Dallastown head coach Matt Zimmerman said. “We were the better team out there. But sometimes in fútbol, you get that. Sometimes the better team doesn’t win.”
Red Lion's goals: Zach Stambaugh gave the Lions a 1-0 lead about 18 minutes into the match. A free kick put the ball in the box, and the first Red Lion shot deflected off Dallastown’s goalie and rolled right to Stambaugh’s right foot.
“We don’t like to go direct with our free kicks, but we did today,” Watt said. “We changed it up, because Dallastown is used to us playing a very possession-based game with short passing. They didn’t clear it, and we just had a kid in the right place at the right time to find an empty net.”
Michael Moffit used his speed as a striker to score four minutes later to give the Lions a 2-0 lead.
“(Moffit) is so fast that any ball in behind, when he’s onside, is going to be a scoring opportunity,” Watt said. “Their keeper came off his line, and it was a foot race between him and the keeper for who was going to get the ball first.”
Dallastown (7-2, 5-2) had a few chances in the second half to score goals on headers, but the Wildcats couldn’t get a great opportunity until about five minutes left in the game.
Junior midfielder Gabe Wunderlich was fouled in the box and was awarded a penalty kick, which he scored to give the Wildcats a chance at the end of the match. Zimmerman said the Wildcats shouldn’t have been in a position at the end of the match to need a penalty kick to stay alive.
“We just didn’t come to play again. The same thing happened Tuesday against Central and the same thing happened today,” said Zimmerman, referencing the team’s 3-1 loss to Central earlier this week. “We have to get a gut check in there to see if we’re going to improve this year.”
The penalty kick goal was only the third goal McKeever has allowed all season. Watt said he was impressed with his junior keeper at the end of the match.
“He’s really grown a lot physically and mentally in the last year,” Watt said. “As a sophomore last year, he wouldn’t have dealt with those crosses anywhere near (as well) as he did today with those balls in the box. He’s grown five or six inches since last year, and he’s more confident coming off his line.”
The Lions are alone atop the Division I standings, but Watt doesn’t want his team’s mentality to change.
“I wasn’t expecting a (6-0) start,” Watt said. “I said to start the season that I was cautiously optimistic, and I’ll keep that mindset. We’re not going to get too far ahead of ourselves. We know we’re a work in progress and we’ve got a lot of things to improve on, but we’re grinding and we’re digging deep when we need to.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org