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Panhandle rivals all tied up on the pitch

September 01, 2006|by CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - The Hedgesville and Jefferson boys soccer teams walked on to the field Thursday night undefeated.

After 80 minutes of back-and-forth, physical soccer, the Eastern Panhandle rivals walked off undefeated. They battled to a 1-1 tie.

"If there's a drill in practice and we end in a tie, then they're going to be running," said Hedgesville coach Chris Ruest. "But in a game situation, ties are better than losses."

The Eagles were facing one of the latter results late in the second half.

With about 12 minutes remaining, Hedgesville freshman goalie Kris Eichelberger - who'd been clutch in the box, turning away several Jefferson scoring opportunities - bobbled a long attempt at the goal. The ball fell to the ground and was met by the cleat of Matt Tiano, who easily booted it into the net to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.

After the score, Hedgesville players gathered around their first-year keeper with words of encouragement.

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"The thing that made me proud was when (Jefferson) scored on our freshman goalkeeper," Ruest said. "The guys went in and picked him up. It's important to have 16 other guys that you can count on in situations like that."

"We told him not to worry, that we would get (the goal) back," senior Ben Gross said.

Sure enough, the Eagles (3-0-1) lived up to the promise. Not more than four minutes after Tiano's goal, Gross took a cross pass from David Shaffer and scooted it to the right of Jefferson goalie Derek Walls to tie the game at 1-1 with less than 10 minutes remaining.

With the window of victory rapidly closing, both squads took their play up a notch. What was a defensive struggle for much of the game turned into a dash to the goals, but neither team could touch the net for a second time.

The best chance at a second goal went to Jefferson (4-0-1) and was just inches high as Aaron Kelly's shot with about 4 minutes left hit the crossbar and sailed out of bounds.

"I feel like we didn't capitalize on our opportunities enough," said Jefferson coach Doug Hunt.

Both teams had their share of shots on goal and both watched those shots hook, push and sail around it. Now, instead of a sweep or a split in the series, the winner of the second and final regular-season meeting between the teams on Sept. 14 will have an edge for the playoffs.

"As far as seeding goes, the winner of the next match has the clear advantage," Hunt said. "Unfortunately we have to go clean (to Hedgesville) and that puts the pressure on us."

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