HERSHEY >> The Hamburg Hawks showed up at Hershey High School Monday evening as decided underdogs for their District 3 3A first-round boys’ soccer clash with the homestanding and fourth-seeded Trojans.
It hardly played out that way.
Hamburg and Hershey were so thoroughly and evenly matched — skill level, tactically, statistically — that neither team could find the back of the net in regulation. It took a put-back of a carom off the post 4:58 into overtime to settle the matter in favor of Hershey, 1-0, ending Hamburg’s season in heartbreaking fashion.
“Nobody could get one home,” Hamburg head coach Chris Zalasky said. “And that goes for them though, too, except at the end. It’s the effort we’ve had all year, and we’ve played top-notch competition. We came here and knew they were probably gonna come at us. After 10 minutes, we knew that we could hang and be just as good as them, if not better.”
Brandon Moreno’s put-back in the box to the right side, off Dante Hunter’s initial offering, was the only separator between two squads who, despite their disparate rankings (Hamburg was seeded 13th), played 80 minutes to a dead heat.
Hunter found enough space in the box to clang a shot off the left goalpost which rebounded to Morano’s right foot; Hershey’s midseason JV call-up confidently struck the ball and it found the back of the net at 84:58 to end it.
The Hawks (9-9-2) entered the golden goal overtime session with a 5-4 edge in shots on target; corners were even at 5 apiece. Both teams preferred to play out to the wings, looking for crosses in the box while being patient with counterattacks — careful not to get overaggressive and stretched out of shape. Occasional midfield forays were snuffed by stout backline defending. The mirrored image didn’t escape Zalasky.
“We’ve been practicing this since early August,” he said. “Trying to be a team that is disciplined, that keeps its shape. You’re not going to win games at this level not being disciplined, just going out there and running around.
“I’m proud of the boys, proud of the way they fought and it’s a shame we couldn’t finish one ball. We weren’t shocked by the pace or anything. We didn’t see any talent level we already haven’t seen.”
Hamburg goalkeeper Trevor Fegley was on his game in what turned out to be his final one for the Hawks. The senior keeper made a couple of sparkling saves, including one three minutes into OT, in which he rejected Hershey’s first shot of the extra session by leaping to deflect a headed laser off a cutter in the box targeted for the upper right corner.
“He’s been so big for us all year,” Zalasky said of Fegley, “He’s a poster child for ‘if you work hard, if you do things right in this program, you’ll be successful’. He’s a fantastic model for others to follow. He does stuff the right way. Anything we asked for, he did above and beyond.”
Hamburg, patient on opportunities, unleashed swift counters as presented. It earned the Hawks the first three shots of the match, but none were of high enough quality to beat Hershey goalie Alex Morgret.
The Trojans’ (11-4-3) preferred method inside the 18 was cutting headers off entry passes. However, none of those attempts threatened Fegley until that spectacular save that came just a minute and change before the end of the season.
“We’ve been in this situation all year,” Hershey second-year head coach Andrew Maya said, after he watched his squad complete its fifth overtime match of the campaign. “We were fortunate. The playoffs can go either way. It’s a credit to (Hamburg). They played a helluva game.”
District 3-AAA first round
Hershey 1, Hamburg 0 (OT)
Hershey – Brandon Moreno (Dante Hunter), 84:58
Shots on goal
Her 6, Ham 5
Her 5, Ham 5
Her (Alex Morgret) 5, Ham (Trevor Fegley) 5
Half: no score
Regulation: no score
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