Warwick vs. Manheim Twp. - District 3 4A first round

Warwick’s Charlie Kramer works the ball downfield against Manheim Township during the District 3 boys soccer first round.

COATESVILLE — Having graduated nine seniors from the 2021 PIAA 4A State Champions, one could surmise Conestoga was in rebuilding mode in 2022.

Two victories away from defending its title, one could surmise the rebuild is move-in ready.

The Pioneers (19-4) scored twice in the second half and defeated Warwick 2-0 Saturday afternoon under balmy, sun-splashed skies at Coatesville Area High School.

Sophomore defender Cole Frederick scored off a rebound in a hurly-burly of action in the 46th minute to break a 0-0 tie. Less than nine minutes later junior forward Kole Wintersteen bodied home an insurance marker, with just under 26 minutes to play to turn the Warriors’ uphill battle into a summiting of Kilimanjaro.

The Pioneers enjoyed a decided height advantage, at least three players, including Wintersteen, were well over 6-foot-3 and keeper Ryan Carella was a good four inches taller than that.

“It was hard to keep matching up against guys that are three, four inches taller than you,” Warriors coach Matt Wagner pointed out. “They won every head ball they possibly could.”

The Pioneers used that advantage all game and capitalized in key, still ball situations as both goals came off corner kick restarts.

Remarkably, there were no corners in the first half, and Warwick (12-8-2) got the first corner of the game, 45 seconds into the second half. But the Pioneers cashed the first of their six corners five minutes in.

Junior Brady Costin tapped a short serve to junior Diego Ramirez who played it back to Costin. Costin then delivered the ball on goal, punched away by Beck as all heck broke loose.

“There was a lot of events in a small period of time,” said Frederick, who started on the title team as a freshman. “It was hard to tell. The ball came to me and I kind of volleyed it back post.”

After Beck’s initial save there was another shot, kick saved by Beck with that rebound bounding to Frederick on the weak side, standing inside the right post. From there he sent it home for his fourth goal of the season.

Truly a lot of events in an incredibly small period of time.

“That’s the way they scored on Hempfield,” said Wagner. “We blocked two shots before that. Honestly, if that was the game winner, it was a great, great shot.”

Eight minutes later, Costin served the ball to the far post, deep into the box. It homed in on Wintersteen, who redirected it with his chest and into the net.

“This whole season we’ve been a second-half team,” Frederick said. “And we really proved that today.”

Conestoga dominated possession all game, finishing with 34 scoring opportunities to Warwick’s 12, but the Warriors held their own in the first half behind a defensive unit of senior Zack Rusnock, juniors , Titus Layton and Marin Davis and sophomore Ben Knouse fronting Beck (6 saves on 9 SOG).

The Pioneers came closest to scoring in the first half when Wintersteen hit the crossbar on a quick strike with 1:40 left.

Given their size advantage it’s no surprise the fouls were tilted heavily to Conestoga in the first half, 10-5, 8-3 without offsides calls. While they never created a dangerous opportunity inside the offensive third, the Warriors challenged Carella on long free kicks following fouls.

Marin Davis’s 53-yard, first-half free kick directly on goal, one of four long-distance restarts for Davis, was the only shot-on-goal for the Warriors. Carella punched out junior Aiden Troop’s Davis corner service as the second half began.

“We got more in tune by controlling a bit more of the midfield (in the second half),” Wagner said. “If we had done that a little bit earlier maybe we would’ve created a bit more chances.

“Their defenders were big, tall, physical and fast,” said Wagner. “You keep trying, keep plugging away. Yeah, I would’ve liked to have more offense, but credit their defense. They played really well.”

As have the Warriors, who finished tied for third in Section One of the L-L League, entered the district tournament as the No. 11 seed before advancing to the semifinals and pocketed their first state-tournament victory since winning the 2005 state title.

“Gritty, that’s the definition of this group,” said Wagner. “This group was gritty and they finally pulled it together. We were able to surprise some teams … do what we needed to do and win games.”

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