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Rough opening to Mid-Penn Conference play for Raider boys soccer

Posted 9/11/19

The Blue Raiders opened up Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division play last week with some tough losses.

“It’s been a difficult start to the season,” coach Brian Keyser said. …

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Rough opening to Mid-Penn Conference play for Raider boys soccer

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The Blue Raiders opened up Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division play last week with some tough losses.

“It’s been a difficult start to the season,” coach Brian Keyser said. “We’ve had some injuries to key players that have forced us to test our depth earlier than expected. Some of our younger guys have been thrown into the fire and are getting valuable experience that will make us a better team in the future. We have played good soccer in each of the games we’ve lost, but we haven’t put it together for more than a half. I feel like we are close to breaking out, even though our results don’t show it.”

After splitting two games in a season-opening Wyomissing tournament, Middletown is 1-4 on the season.

The Blue Raiders returned to action Tuesday at home against Camp Hill and will finish the week at home Thursday for a daylight game at 4 p.m. at the Reid Elementary School soccer field against Milton Hershey.

Bishop McDevitt 2, Middletown 1

On Tuesday night, the Raiders were at home against Bishop McDevitt.

The Crusaders came out with greater intensity and owned the lion’s share of possession of the ball, while the Raiders seemed confident playing the ball in the defensive third.

However, this opened up chances for the Crusaders and earned the first good scoring chance when Garrett Hughes received a nice slotted ball to get beyond the Raider defense, but Caleb Springer was up to the challenge by steering the ball over the crossbar.

The Crusaders continued to outpace the Raiders and were rewarded with the first goal of the contest. The goal came off a nice ball played centrally to Leo Posavec who on the dribble was able to square up Garrett Miller, who did well to contain his attacker. However, a nice change of speed feint got the half-step advantage over Miller to shoot the ball far post from close proximity giving Springer little reaction time for a save. The Raiders were down 1-0.

The Crusaders finished the half with the better play, but the Raiders were able to generate a few chances of their own on the counterattack. With the Raiders down a goal, they increased their pace and began to high press. This intensity swung the scoring chances in the favor of the Raiders, when the combination of Dagan Hughes, Griffin Meyer, Joey Spear and Jaiden Miller earned four consecutive scoring chances and continued pressure on the Raiders’ offensive half of the field.

This, however, left the Raiders open to the counterattack, and perhaps a bit of misfortune as the Crusaders earned a penalty kick on a questionable foul. Nick Hamilton buried the penalty kick and put Bishop McDevitt up 2-0.

The Raiders did not quit and finished the game strong by cutting the two-goal deficit in half when Spear was fouled in the box attempting to split two defenders. Hughes took the penalty kick and made good of the attempt to make it 2-1. The Raiders finished the game strong earning multiple scoring chances toward the end the game but could not find the equalizer.

“If we would have played the entire match the way we played the final 20 minutes, I believe we would have achieved a different result,” Keyser said. “I’m proud of the way we fought until the final whistle.”

West Perry 3, Middletown 0

The Raiders continued their style of play at West Perry on Thursday in much the same way as they finished the game with McDevitt. Their more attack-minded team formation, greater pace and intensity earned the Raiders nearly all the possessions and chances of the game.

It was not until the 10th minute that West Perry earned their first shot, a direct kick taken to the far post that Springer was able to push wide of goal.

Despite the Raider dominance, the Mustangs earned the first goal on a seemingly harmless high service ball. The pressure of the Mustangs, however, was able to contend the ball simultaneously with the Raider back line and get just enough of the ball to direct the bounding ball around Springer standing off his line to make it 1-0.

The Mustangs, energized by the goal, began to gain some possession of their own. They were able to string passes together in the midfield, something that was lacking earlier by the relentless pursuit of Hughes and Brady Keyser throughout much of the half.

After a defensive miscue playing the ball out of the backfield, the Mustangs nearly doubled their lead entering halftime, but Springer rushed off the goal line to cut down the angle on the one-on-one attempt, forcing the West Perry striker to send the ball over the crossbar.

It was not until the second half that West Perry was able to break the offsides trap of the Raiders’ back line that had been so effective earlier in the game. The speedy young attacker of West Perry, Garrett Bartlow, got behind the Raider defense and doubled the Mustangs’ lead when his shot was pushed low under the reach of Springer diving to his left to make it 2-0.

The Raiders did not quit and nearly cut into the lead when Spear split two defenders and was dispossessed, but Billy Cleland won the ball back in a dangerous position. Cleland’s shot, however, was a raising shot that hit the crossbar and went out of play.

The Mustangs tallied one more on perhaps the only pretty goal of the evening when Dante Beddia crossed the ball to their forward who was standing near post and headed it across the frame to the upper 90 for the third goal and a 3-0 Raider loss.

“We got off to a great start, but just couldn’t score. The goal they scored against the run of play deflated us a bit,” Keyser said. “After they scored their second goal early in the second half, we had to chase the game again, and West Perry is too disciplined a team for that to work for us on the road.”

Susquehanna Township 3, Middletown 1

The Raiders finished the week on Saturday at Susquehanna Township with several key injuries.

Susquehanna Township took advantage of the altered lineup and broke onto the scoreboard early in the game when a defensive miss-clear was won back by the Indian attackers and sent past Springer from about 6 yards out.

The back line continued to struggle with defensive clearances. The Raiders went down 2-0 after a Susquehanna Township corner kick. Several failed clearance attempts eventually fell to the foot of Indian attackers and their persistence of throwing numbers at the ball. They were rewarded when the shot was fired and deflected off the Raider defense for the second goal. 

Susquehanna Township added one more to make it 3-0 when a nice slotted ball was able to get beyond the offsides trap of the Raiders. The speedy attacker was able to chip Springer coming off his line in the attempt to cut down the angle.

One bright spot for the Raiders came after the Raiders were down the three goals. With the game out of reach, the Raiders provided the opportunity to give valuable play time to many of the younger Raiders. Bailey Snyder took full advantage of the added minutes and created his own scoring chance on the dribble to create some space.

Once in space, Snyder saw a small shooting lane near post and neatly rocketed the ball low from distance to get the Raiders their only goal of the contest.