Making history on the pitch: Cocalico claims first L-L soccer crown with 3-0 win over LMH in title match

By on October 24, 2018
Cocalico players hoist the L-L League championship trophy following their 3-0 championship game victory over Lancaster Mennonite last Thursday at Warwick.  Photo by Missi Mortimer

Cocalico players hoist the L-L League championship trophy following their 3-0 championship game victory over Lancaster Mennonite last Thursday at Warwick. Photo by Missi Mortimer

Cocalico boys’ soccer Coach Derek Sipe wasn’t expecting to get hit with an ice bath on a chilly evening last Thursday night at Warwick.

But when he did, moments after watching his Eagles take down Lancaster Mennonite for a third time this season to clinch the program’s first L-L League soccer title, he soaked it all in.

“It’s just so special,” Sipe said between toweling off. “The group of guys, the seniors, they have been a part of this program when it was nowhere near where we are today. It’s just a special night for all the guys and I’m just so proud of them.”

The Section Three champion Eagles, who were 4-12-2 just two years ago, reached the top of the L-L mountain Thursday, building a 3-0 lead before withstanding a late Blazer surge to hold on for the 3-0 shutout victory. Sophomore Darren Main scored a pair of goals while senior Nick Stauffer also found the net.

It was all senior keeper Peyton Stetter would need as he turned away all nine Blazer shots to set off a wild celebration from the boys from Denver moments after the clock struck zero.

“This is big,” Stauffer said following the historic win. “It means a lot to me, my teammates and our coaches…Everybody played a big part in this.”

Main added, “it’s amazing. A couple years ago we didn’t have many wins…it’s pretty crazy to see where we are now.”

Where they are now is on top, and it took all 11 players on the field believing in one another to get it done.

“It feels great obviously to be league champions,” senior tri-captain Danny Engle said. “We played a great team tonight…the score didn’t reflect how close a game it was. They hit a crossbar and they had some chances but we are just really happy. We came into the season believing that we could do this stuff, win sections, compete for league championships. And it started off and we were 1-1, but we kept on going and we just kept believing every game. We always say, ‘We are all that we have, we are all that we need.’ That’s true. We just believe in each other and that’s all we need.”

Faced with the pressure of beating a team, especially a formidable side like Mennonite, seemed like a daunting task. However, Cocalico (18-1-0) came out quickly Thursday and carried the play from the start. After missing on several early chances, the Eagles finally cashed in in the game’s 18th minute.

Off a free kick, Main pounced on a loose ball and drilled a shot past Mennonite goalkeeper Gabe Willig off the inside post for the 1-0 Cocalico lead.

“That early goal definitely took the pressure off,” Engle admitted. “We definitely strived to get the first goal…any soccer game you want to get the first goal, and Darren had a great goal. He was composed in the box and played it off the post and in.”

Cocalico carried the 1-0 lead into the half, but the complexion of the game quickly changed early in the second when the Eagles struck for two goals in the first 3:07 to take a 3-0 lead and seemingly gain complete control in this one.

The first goal came soon after the second half kick when Stauffer, perched some 20 yards out, floated a shot over the out-stretched arms of Willig and in for the big insurance goal.

Cocalico would strike again two-and-a-half minutes later when Main pounced on a loose ball off a free kick by Engle and put it home to stretch the advantage of three.

But the final 36 minutes and change were anything but easy for the Eagles as Mennonite (15-5-0) made quite a push the rest of the way. With 29 minutes to go, Paul Peachey hit a crossbar. Stetter then stoned both Tyler Wagner and Ben Lefever with diving stops. All told, Stetter faced seven shots on goal in the second half and stopped them all to secure the Eagles’ 17th-straight win and first-ever league crown.

“We talked at half-time about how that (push from Mennonite) was going to come,” Sipe said. “I didn’t anticipate scoring 30 seconds into the half and then following up with another one a little later. But they are a team that is not going to give up. They aren’t going to fold or get frustrated with one another. They are going to find ways to fix things or try new ideas and push some of the talent that they have forward. It was dangerous a lot of times. Peyton made two or three spectacular saves in the middle of the half to keep it 3-0. You never know if it gets to 3-1 how it can turn into something else. If they get a goal, it can lead to a couple quick ones so it was important to keep that zero up there.”

Mennonite actually out-shot Cocalico 9-8 with the Eagles holding a 5-4 advantage in corners.

“We just wanted it more than past years,” Main said. “It’s all heart. I came in focused today and I knew as a unit our whole team could get it done.”

Sipe was asked what made the difference this year, compared to others. He quickly pointed to his senior core, all of whom had big moments during the L-L playoff run.

“The seniors absolutely,” he said. “Halfway through the season I started to think what was the difference between last year and this year. I don’t think it’s that different of a team but we have the leadership and we have the guys that play and show people how things should look and hold each other accountable. The friendships and relationships they have allows them to do things together on the field. I think that togetherness as a team is the biggest thing I can point to, and it’s led by the seniors.”

Engle, who is one of those key seniors, agreed.

“I honestly think it’s the way we play with each other,” he said. “And we are just one big family off the field too. We’ve been playing with each other for years, and last year it came together a little bit. We all just one big family and I think our camaraderie really pushed us through.”

It all added up to a night those seniors, the rest of their team and the Denver community, will never forget.

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