Making history

By on October 17, 2018

Zimmerman’s goal in second OT clinches Eagles’ first trip to L-L title game

Cocalico players mob Joe Zimmerman (22) moments after the senior midfielder delivered the gamewin ner Tuesday to lift the Eagles to a 3-2 double-overtime victory over the Blue Streaks in the L-L semifinals played at Conestoga Valley. The win vaults the Eagles into Thursday’s L-L title game (7:30 p.m. at Warwick) where they’ll face fellow Section Three foe Lancaster Mennonite. Photo by Travis Boyd

Cocalico players mob Joe Zimmerman (22) moments after the senior midfielder delivered the gamewin ner Tuesday to lift the Eagles to a 3-2 double-overtime victory over the Blue Streaks in the L-L semifinals played at Conestoga Valley. The win vaults the Eagles into Thursday’s L-L title game (7:30 p.m. at Warwick) where they’ll face fellow Section Three foe Lancaster Mennonite. Photo by Travis Boyd

The Cocalico boys soccer program has been in existence for close to 30 years. Never before have the Eagles had a season like the current one.

Cocalico won it’s first-ever section title this year, captured its first L-L playoff game over arch-rival Ephrata Saturday, and Tuesday night at Conestoga Valley, the Eagles played their way into the L-L League finals for the first time in their history.

Joe Zimmerman made sure of that.

With time winding down in the second overtime in a 2-2 standstill with Manheim Township in the L-L semifinals, Danny Engle sent a pass down the right side to Zimmerman, who picked up a carom off a Township defender, got it to his right foot and fired a shot inside the far post for the game winner with 3:41 to go.

“I thought I had a fastbreak and I passed it, it bounced off (the defender) and it came in front of me,” Zimmerman recalled of the winning goal. “I saw the goalie move nearpost, so I took it far post and hoped it went in…and it went in.”

The goal not only gave Cocalico the 3-2 victory but punched the Eagles’ ticket into Thursday’s finals (7:30 p.m.) at Warwick where they’ll face a familiar opponent in fellow Section Three foe Lancaster Mennonite, which knocked off Warwick 2-0 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.

Just last week, Cocalico defeated LMH 1-0 for the second time this season to clinch the Section Three championship. Thursday, they’ll be on a slightly bigger stage.

“We are unbelievably excited,” Cocalico coach Derek Sipe said following Tuesday’s win. “We are going to enjoy the bus ride home but we talked, and there’s more. We got a game Thursday…we are playing in a final for the first time as a program. The guys are going to be ready. We’ll take care of ourselves tomorrow and they are certainly going to be up for it. It’s obviously a familiar opponent and I’m sure Mennonite is going to be champing at the bit to get back at us…but we’re excited.”

Back to Tuesday’s game where there were many shifts in momentum and emotions.

Despite the Streaks’ constant early pressure, it was Cocalico that drew first blood in the game’s 27th minute when Eagle striker Aaron Weitzel forced his team’s second corner of the game.

Weitzel served it into the box where it was smothered to the ground by Danny Harrington. After a brief scramble, Harrington pushed it past Township keeper Quinn McCarty for the 1-0 lead.

The Section One co-champion Blue Streaks (13-4-0) wasted little time tying it, knotting it at 1-1 less than three minutes later when Andrea DiSomma was taken down in the box, resulting in a PK. DiSomma picked left corner and drilled it past Eagle keeper Peyton Stetter for the equalizer.

But the Eagles (16-1-0) answered right back with 5:35 to go in the half as Weitzel blasted a shot from 25 yards out that beat McCarty to give Cocalico a 2-1 lead at the break.

It seemed as though the Eagles would ride out and hold onto the lead in the second half as they did a nice job bottling up DiSomma. However, DiSomma shook free on one of his few second half touches and ripped a laser into the top-right corner in the 62nd minute to knot the game back up at 2-2.

“There were ups and downs all over the place, and we’re not typically built to play these types of games but I think throughout the season we’ve had a couple where we’ve had to, and we’ve shown we had that in our bag if we need to do it,” Sipe said.

Both teams had some chances that were nullified by good saves from both Stetter (10 saves) and McCarty (8 saves) down the stretch of regulation, and the game went to overtime.

Neither team threatened in the first 15-minute session, but DiSomma and Weitzel each had opportunities early in the second extra period, but both shot wide.

With the game heading toward PKs, Engle collected the ball at midfield and carried up the center before his dish to Zimmerman. And the rest is history.

“We were able to get it forward and pressured their backs and were able to block a ball out and it fell right to his foot,” Sipe said, describing the winning goal. “I thought he had a great touch followed by a great finish. It was very much just an individual effort goal with a beautiful finish at the end.”

Because of it, the Eagles have yet another chance to make history Thursday night.

“It’s huge for us,” Sipe said. “I told the guys, that was some of the best soccer, one of the best games, period, that I’ve been a part of in my life. To be able to watch it and for it to come out the way it did was just fantastic. This was just a fun game to be a part of, and it’s a lot more fun when you are able to put one in the back of the net and celebrate with everybody.”

For the game, Township out-shot the Eagles 12-11 while both teams collected five corners.

Cocalico advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals by virtue of a 1-0 shutout victory over Ephrata Saturday in a first-round game at Lancaster Catholic.

In a re-match of a September 6 showdown between the rival schools that also saw the Eagles victorious with a 1-0 decision, Cocalico stormed out of the gates quickly, scored a first-half goal off the foot of Weitzel, and withstood a late Mounts’ surge to capture their first-ever L-L post-season win.

“It’s big…we’ve kind of been checking off the past three weeks or so a lot of never haves for our program,” Sipe said of the Eagles’ first post-season win. “We are excited to be the first to do it. We held up (the Section Three trophy) that we earned this season and now hopefully that is behind us and we strive to get another one.”

The Eagles out-shot Ephrata 6-0 in the first half and clearly were buzzing the net the first 15 to 20 minutes. Fortunately for the Mounts, keeper Cole Hummel was equal to the task and kept the Eagles off the scoreboard.

Cocalico did, however, finally break through, and it came on an innocent looking play as Weitzel lined up a free kick from 40 yards out and sent it to the net. Hummel settled under it, but the ball glanced off his hands and into the net with 6:48 left in the half.

“Our goalie, who has been unbelievable all year and has kept us in everything and is the reason we are here, had it in his hands, looked up for a second and it went in,” Ephrata Coach Rob Deininger said. “Unfortunately that one break proved to be the difference.”

Ephrata (12-5-1) did find its legs in the second half, and had several opportunities. The best one actually came in the game’s final minute when Tyler Shue found himself staring at a wide-open net with the ball on his foot after Stetter made the initial stop.

However, Shue’ got under it and fired a shot over the crossbar, and the Eagles held on for the win.

“The last 10 minutes we found our feet,” Deininger said. “We are not overly offensive usually but we had some nice opportunities. Unfortunately for us they had a re-start from about 40 yards out and got one in.”

Up next, Ephrata will re-group for the start of the District Three AAAA Tournament, which is set to begin next Tuesday. As of presstime, the Mounts were seeded 11th so they will probably open on the road at a higher seeded team.

As for Cocalico, the Eagles will open District AAA play next Monday at home. At presstime, Cocalico was the top-ranked team in the AAA field.

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