It has been this way as long as they can remember. Jack Kelly on the right wing with Dan Marcroft in the middle.
From LSYS through Nitro FC to under the lights at Lampeter-Strasburg. Their bond is undeniable. It was built through a close friendship and more passes than either can count.
“You can tell maybe two years after you start playing together,” Marcroft said. “You just develop chemistry as it goes on.”
The Kelly-to-Marcroft link was stronger than ever Wednesday night. The winger found the striker twice and sparked L-S past Ephrata 2-0 in a Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two boys soccer game at Lampeter.
These two, who started playing together in middle school, are like brothers. They finish each other’s thoughts.
“We have a connection …” Marcroft began.
“I know where he’s going when I get the ball,” Kelly continued. “It’s either down the line or staying in the middle and I can read it pretty well.”
L-S opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Kelly stepped into a pass for a turnover and found Marcroft near the center of the box. The finisher doesn’t usually miss from there.
An insurance goal came in the 73rd minute. This was a free kick that Kelly sent to Marcroft, who chipped it through Ephrata’s keeper.
Marcroft has a team-high eight goals. His quick first step and blazing speed help him create room. Kelly has four assists. He excels at winning possession and sending passes from the outside. One’s a creator and one’s a scorer. A perfect match.
“I think crossing is one of the best aspects of my game,” Kelly said. “It’s just natural. From a young age I’ve been watching professional soccer. I see players whipping in crosses. I wanted to be like that.”
Landon Rice is the third member of Nitro FC to play in the attacking third for L-S. Rice has five goals, four assists and ripped a shot off the crossbar in this one.
Playing year-round together matters. L-S coach Chris Garraffa can see the advantages.
“When they play in tight spaces it makes all the difference,” Garraffa said. “They know. They don’t even have to say it. They know what space they’re going to be in before that person moves to it. I know they’re going to find their way and I trust them to find their way.”
L-S (4-1 L-L, 6-2 overall) has forged a three-way tie atop the section with Ephrata and Elizabethtown, bouncing back after finishing 2-14 last season.
Garraffa was optimistic his team could improve. Close losses and injuries turned last fall into a mess. L-S is back as a contender. The victory over Ephrata (4-1, 6-2), which was undefeated in league play, proves it.
“I never had a doubt,” Garraffa said. “Last year was frustrating, but we were in every single game. We can hang. This was our bounce back year. People don’t expect it because of what we had last year.”
Marcroft is a senior, Kelly a junior. They’re nearing the end of their soccer journey together. That makes each win one to savor.
“It’s a great feeling ...” Kelly began before his friend continued the thought.
“Coming off of last year, we did not win much,” Marcroft said. “It’s really special, especially for my senior year. It means a lot.”
There are a few weeks left for Kelly and Marcroft to share that blue-and-white uniform. A few more chances to make that connection.