McCaskey boys soccer coach Adam Wood called it a gut check game.
Kameron Yang couldn’t have agreed more.
“Physically and mentally, we’re all exhausted,” the Red Tornado senior said.
Understandably so, given the circumstances. After all, Section Two-leading McCaskey was playing its third game in three days Wednesday as it took on Manheim Central. But the Tornado weathered a first half in which Wood described his team as “a little flat,” then found their legs in the second, scoring twice to snap a 2-2 tie and putting away a 4-2 win in Manheim.
“I think we’re the only team probably in this whole season, just because of our late start, that had to play three in a row,” Wood said. “So the guys were a little slow (at the outset). We held serve, tied 2-2 at the end of a half, and then we went from there.”
The victory keeps the Tornado (6-0 L-L, 7-0 overall) unbeaten atop the league standings, just ahead of second-place Lampeter-Strasburg (5-1-1, 6-1-1). Only the section champ will advance to the L-L League playoffs in this COVID-shortened season.
It was the lefty-kicking Yang who gave McCaskey a lead it never lost with 13:25 elapsed in the second half, hooking a corner kick over the fingertips of Barons freshman keeper Wes Bates into the left corner of the net to make it 3-2.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was going to curve in,” Yang recalled. “It was just a matter of if the goalie was on or off his line. Sometimes it’s luck, but a lot of times I try to put it in the right area.”
Following a first half in which the Barons carried the play, McCaskey turned the tables in the second. Yang’s goal came on the second of six second-half corners for the Tornado, to three for Manheim Central, and they outshot the Barons 5-2 in that time.
Eventually, the Tornado, who have a section-best 27 goals in six games, put it out of reach when senior Sam Hershey emerged through traffic in midfield and scored with 5:45 left.
“I think what clicked,” Yang said, “was at halftime, the team talk we had was just about how we need to dig deep and finish the game strong.”
The Barons (3-4 league) opened the game strong, getting goals from Nate Reed in the second minute and Gabe Redcay in the seventh, burying a one-timer in front off a perfect feed from Connor Caterbone, as Central took leads of 1-0 and 2-1.
In a wide-open first 14 minutes, however, Leo Dunia answered both times for McCaskey, resulting in a 2-2 deadlock. It remained that way at the half, although the Barons had other opportunities. The Barons outshot McCaskey 6-4 in the first half, but Tornado defender Christian Lopez and keeper Grady Bachman made big stops, robbing Reed and Andrew Donmoyer from close range, and Kauffman hit the crossbar.
“They finished their chances and we didn’t,” Barons coach Rod Brenize said. “That’s really what it boils down to.”
That, and the Tornado responded to their gut check, keeping them atop the section.
“Obviously, our goal is to always improve,” Wood said. “I’m proud of their work ethic and they’ve been rewarded for it.”