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Smithsburg holds off Wildcats

September 23, 1998|By RON SOMERS / Sports Editor

Smithsburg holds off Wildcats

No. 9 Leopards win big MVAL battle

SMITHSBURG - The Smithsburg boys soccer team, looking to send its season in a more positive direction, was getting only half the job done during the first half of its game against Williamsport on Tuesday night.

The Leopards were holding the Wildcats' high-scoring duo of Matt Bowman and Carlos Gomez scoreless, thanks in part to Kelly Landis' tight marking of Bowman.

--cont. from sports page--

But Williamsport, ranked No. 3, was controlling the ball against the ninth-ranked Leopards, and was holding them scoreless as well.

Then came a pep talk from Smithsburg coach Gary Hawbaker at the half. That resulted in a new attitude, better execution and eventually a 1-0 win in front of about 300 loud Leopards fans.

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"Coach told us to win every ball,'' said junior striker Brian Eichelberger, who scored the goal five minutes into the second half.

Williamsport had been consistently getting to the ball first in the opening 40 minutes.

"We talked about being more aggressive,'' Hawbaker said. "In the last 10 minutes of the first half, we lost every ball.''

Said Eichelberger, "In the first half, we were sluggish.''

Why?

"We do that a lot in the first half,'' Eichelberger said.

Not so in this game.

Sluggishness became aggressiveness, and the payoff was Eichelberger's goal. He got the ball in the left side of the box and sent it toward the right corner of the goal. Josh Miller dove, extending his arms fully. But the ball rolled past.

The Leopards (3-1-2, 2-0-1 MVAL) came close to getting an insurance goal on several occasions. With about 10 minutes remaining, Eichelberger got past Ryan Beard and broke in alone on Miller. But Miller came way out, dove for the ball and made the save.

With time growing short, the Wildcats (4-1, 2-1) made furious offensive rush after furious offensive rush in an effort to get the equalizer. Bowman had shots; Gomez had shots; and Rich Porac had shots.

They came closest in the final minute when Gomez fired a hard shot at point-blank range. But keeper Ryan Bergstrom put his hands in front of his chest and made the save, his 14th of the game.

Miller had 11.

Hawbaker said Smithsburg needed to win so the team could start meeting its expectations.

"We knew we were a good team, but in our first two games we had 56 shots but only two goals,'' Hawbaker said.

Said Eichelberger, "This was a big win for us.''

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