They endured a grueling Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Two boys soccer schedule marked by tight tackling, close calls and overtime finishes.
They made two heart-pumping appearances in the league tournament, bowing out in the semifinals on a nail-biting finish.
Fourteen of their first 18 games had been decided by one goal or fewer.
But in the first round of the District Three playoffs, Lampeter-Strasburg’s players earned some separation against visiting Manheim Central.
The Pioneers poured in four second-half goals to defeat the Barons 5-0 in a Class 3A opener, advancing to the quarterfinals, where they’ll host Northern York on Thursday at a time to be determined.
“It was much-needed,” Lampeter-Strasburg coach Gino DiSomma said. “Our issue this year has been once we get a score, we kind of tend to dip a little bit and get a little complacent. Toward the second half of the year, it’s been all about how do we respond when we go up?”
Up 1-0 at halftime, the No. 4 Pioneers (14-5-1) weathered an early second-half flurry from Manheim Central before Caden Wise, Seth Beers, Max Franco and Joe Frego found the back of the net to help Lampeter-Strasburg pull away for its second district playoff win in three years.
GOAL, Lampeter-Strasburg. Max Franco beats Manheim Central's Dylan Smith to the ball and gets around him. Pioneers lead, 4-0, midway though the second half. pic.twitter.com/iMkbvxVeOB— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) October 22, 2019
“Everybody got involved,” DiSomma said. “Our defense stepped up, and goalkeeper-wise, Colin Reinacher has been playing better and better.”
Reinacher rallied the Pioneers in the opening moments of the second half, turning away a pair of chances from the No. 13 Barons (8-11-0) off a throw-in chance to keep Lampeter-Strasburg up 1-0.
“If one of those goes in,” Manheim Central coach Rod Brenize said, “I think the tone of the game changes, but it is what it is. Their keeper was on. I thought they took advantage of some things they were given and finished their chances.”
Reinacher registered eight saves for the shutout. At the other end, freshman Dylan Smith made 10 saves, including one on Luke Kelly’s breakaway chance in the 52nd minute. The rebound bounced to Wise, who tapped it in to add to the Pioneers’ 1-0 lead. Beers punched in a rebound on a corner kick 2:18 later, and Lampeter-Strasburg picked up momentum.
GOAL, Lampeter-Strasburg. Caden Wise taps in a rebound after Luke Kelly wins the ball at midfield and puts a shot on goal. Pioneers lead 2-0 at 51:12. pic.twitter.com/z3gT3EW02M— Tim Gross (@TimGrossLNP) October 22, 2019
“We knew we were going to press us in the second half like they did the first half,” DiSomma said. “We just needed to get the extra passes toward the midfield, release our forwards a little sooner and return the favor and press them on the back line a little bit.”
Gavin Shue had opened the scoring in the game’s fifth minute, depositing a pass from Alex Baker, who danced along the baseline and slipped the ball into the box. While the Pioneers led early, the Barons applied pressure late. After winning four of their final five regular-season games to qualify for districts, the young lineup went down swinging.
“I’m proud of our team,” Brenize said. “Our kids are fighters. Even at the end, when the game was decided, our kids were still fighting. I think that shows a lot of character on their part.”
Also in Class 3A
Cocalico 2, West Perry 0: Ruvin Bozhko and Aaron Weitzel each scored a goal in the final 11 minutes to propel the No. 8 Eagles (11-6-2) to the quarterfinals for the second straight year and eliminate the No. 9 Mustangs (14-4-1).
Susquehannock 3, Donegal 2: Fallou Cisse’s goal with 5:31 left was the difference for the No. 1 Warriors (17-0-2). Philip Herzog and Patrick Summers scored goals to apply pressure for the No. 16 Indians (10-8-1) in their first playoff game since 2011.
In Class A
Dayspring Christian 4, Harrisburg Academy 1: The No. 8 Warriors (12-5-1) earned the program’s first district playoff victory, advancing to Wednesday’s quarterfinal at top-seeded Halifax (16-1).
Fairfield 2, Mount Calvary 1: The No. 10 Knights (11-7-1) knocked off the No. 7 Chargers (12-4).