The cohesion among Manheim Township’s players gave the Blue Streaks a boost against Lancaster Catholic on Wednesday in the Lancaster-Lebanon League boys soccer semifinals at Lampeter-Strasburg.
Drawing from experience — in some cases, a decade of playing together — Manheim Township invoked precise passes and selfless set-ups to build and early lead in a 5-1 victory, clinching a spot in Saturday’s league championship game.
“We’re not relying on one person,” Manheim Township coach Kevin Baker said of the in-sync Blue Streaks (11-2), “and nobody feels out-shined by anybody else. They’re playing for each other, which is really cool.”
Moses Beers laid the groundwork for the opening goal with a pass to Shawn Larroza, who laced a left-footed shot off the inside of the right post in the third minute. Brady Yohe helped bolster the lead with a crossing pass from the end line to Shea Miller Smith in the 13th minute and a long pass into an Andrew Sheehan header in the 19th minute.
Miller-Smith tacked on his second goal of the game in the 37th minute on a ball from Robbie Irizarry to give the experienced Section One champions a four-goal cushion heading into halftime.
“They had four really good chances,” Lancaster Catholic coach Bryan Fossi said of the first half, “and they scored on all those chances.”
Fossi’s Crusaders (9-2), the Section Four champions, rallied in the second half, applying pressure and cutting into the Manheim Township lead when Matt Oleskowitz slipped a penalty kick past Blue Streaks goalkeeper Quinn McCarty (four saves).
“They had the crowd behind them,” Baker said of the Crusaders. “They had the energy. When you’re down in a game, you have to throw everything forward, and they did that. We just have to learn how to stay composed, how to keep playing our game and not get flustered or caught up in the emotions of the game.”
Manheim Township’s Daven Calderon added a goal in the 79th minute, chasing down a second-chance opportunity after Lancaster Catholic keeper Nathan Hummer (13 saves) denied his initial offering. The defending league champions advance to Saturday’s final — scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Warwick — opposite McCaskey, last year’s runner-up.
“They have been waiting for this ever since the end of last season,” Baker said.
Lancaster Catholic, meanwhile, sits on the bubble for the four-team District Three Class 2A playoffs. As of Wednesday, the Crusaders sat in fourth place in the power rankings, which will be finalized Saturday.