FOX TWP. – Cross-town rivalry boys' soccer games between Elk County Catholic and St. Marys Area are typically exciting and close contests, and Tuesday night's match at Angela Huey Memorial Field in Fox Township did not disappoint. Both teams played a hard, scoreless 91.45 minutes of soccer, with each having plenty of opportunities to score but being unable to overcome the other's strong defense and solid goal tending.
That all changed just under two minutes into the second overtime period when ECC's Ian Herzing sent a high shot at St. Marys' goal. SMA keeper Brett Lanzel tried to jump up and get a hand on the ball, but it appeared to be just out of his reach, sailing over his head and landing in the back of the net to give the Crusaders a hard-fought 1-0 victory.
"It was a great night again to play soccer," said ECC coach Adam Bailey. "It's always a good rivalry between St. Marys and Elk Catholic. It was good to see that kind of contest. It's the kind of game where it's unfortunate that someone has to win. We're happy it was us. The game could have gone either way. We all had our opportunities. We'll take the win and move on to our next game."
St. Marys coach Russ Micale also commented on the close competition between the two teams throughout the match, noting that it was a good game for the fans.
"It was definitely an exciting match," Micale said. "Both teams played very well. It was a very close contest, and we came up on the short side of it."
Both teams tried hard to get on the board throughout regulation, and both took a fairly even number of shots in the opening half. Lanzel and ECC keeper Cory Huff were both solid on defense though, with each making a number of nice saves and clearing the ball whenever possible when it came near their respective goals.
The second half featured more of the same, with both teams picking up the pace to try to get on the board. Almost midway through the half, a shot off of a St. Marys Area corner kick was almost turned into a goal, but Huff was able to jump up and hit the ball over the back of the net. The move gave the Dutchmen another corner kick, but preserved the 0-0 tie. While St. Marys kept Huff on his toes, the Crusaders also made sure Lanzel was on top of his game at the other end of the field, sending a variety of shots his way.
By the time the teams moved into position to begin the first overtime period, it had begun to look as though they might have to settle for a tie in the match as neither showed any signs of making a mistake. That period also ended with the score still knotted at zero.
As the very physical contest entered the second overtime period, both teams again tried to gain any advantage possible in order to score the winning goal. Herzing's shot with 8:15 left on the clock turned out to be the difference maker, and the Crusaders came away with the 1-0 win. The victory also gave the Crusaders a 2-1 advantage in games played against St. Marys Area this season. ECC won 2-0 in the opening round of the Elk County Tournament, and St. Marys recorded a 1-0 victory at home on Sept. 13.
ECC, now 5-6-1, will travel to DuBois Central Catholic on Thursday for a 4 p.m. match against the Cardinals. The two teams met once already this year, in the Crusaders' season opener. That game ended in a 0-0 tie.
St. Marys Area, 5-7, will also be back in action on Thursday as they travel to Port Allegany for a 4 p.m. match against the Gators. In their meeting earlier this season, the Dutchmen came up short 3-1 against Port and will look to avenge that loss later this week.