SAEGERTOWN — All game long, the fans on the Saegertown side kept calling for the offense to advance in force.
“Move the offense up!” yelled all the bleacher coaches. “Come on!”
The only problem was, the Saegertown midfield was too busy assisting the defense against a dangerous Seneca top line. And so, every time the ball got into Saegertown’s half of the field it seemed like forwards Lance Bill or Max Ravenscroft were the only Panthers near it. And those two were forced to find ways around the whole of Seneca’s defense.
After regulation ended in a 2-2 tie, and just a minute into the first overtime period, Derek Stellato finally gave the people what they wanted.
Collecting the ball on the left sideline, Stellato headed for the Seneca goal. He lost his dribble for a second, but quickly recovered. He angled into the box, sidestepped a Bobcat defender, centered up against Seneca goalie Adam Wright, and then let fly.
Saegertown won a thriller, 3-2 in OT Tuesday at the PENNCREST Athletic Fields.
“It’s been insane, holy cow,” said Stellato. “Three-peat. My first-ever three-peat in the four years that I’ve been playing.”
What he means is, Saegertown has won three straight games for the first time in the last four years.
After starting 2019 with a record of 0-4-2, the Panthers since defeated Conneaut (Ohio) 3-0 last Wednesday, Wilmington 6-1 on Monday, and now Seneca yesterday, thanks to Stellato’s heroics in the extra period.
“With lots of practice we’ve improved our skills,” Stellato said. “We’ve polished up. And we took the ‘dub’ tonight.”
“We graduated eight seniors last year,” said Panthers head coach Jamie Rockwell, whose team is now 2-2-0 in Region 3 to go along with it’s record of 3-4-2 overall. “We only had four seniors back. But our more experience players are teaching the younger ones. They’re staying positive. Each week I see them getting better. It’s fun to watch.”
As mentioned, Saegertown had only just played the night before. So, by the end of regulation yesterday ...
“Those kids were exhausted,” said Rockwell. “Especially with only four subs, it’s kind of hard to give people a break sometimes. And they’re going 100 percent the whole game.”
The weariness was visible, especially with Bill and Ravenscroft up front. When the ball came their way, they’d try to make a charge. But, again, one or the other would have to battle four defenders along the way. Inevitably, the attack would flame out. The ball would get cleared to the other side of the field. And one or both of the forwards would bend over, hands on knees, and try to catch their breath for the next opportunity.
Fresh-legged, however, those two gave Seneca (3-5-1, 1-3-0 Region 3) all kinds of trouble.
The Bobcats did get on the scoreboard first. About 10 minutes into the first half, Seneca’s David DeFazio got the ball down low and crossed it in front of Saegertown goalie Aiden Rauscher and into the left side of the Panthers’ goal.
Yet, Saegertown got the equalizer only a couple minutes later. The Panthers received a free kick near midfield. Andy Rockwell rushed it before Seneca could set up its defense. That sprung Ravenscroft for a breakaway. He toed it around Wright and shot for twine, making it 1-1.
Saegertown then surprised Seneca’s defense again just a couple minutes later. Andy Rockwell again got the scoring chance started, this time with a throw-in along the right sideline. This time the target was Bill, who headed the over the defender and had nobody between himself and the goal. Bill angled the shot past Wright and into the left side of the net to make it 2-1.
However, Seneca managed to knot the score shortly before halftime when Zachary Nichols floated a shot over Rauscher’s head from around 20 yards out.
That’s where the score would remain throughout regulation, as Saegertown’s attacks kept getting swallowed up by the Seneca defense, while the Panthers kept its bodies back to clog up the Bobcats’ chances.
Seneca still got some shots through, though. Rauscher would eventually be credited with 26 saves for the match.
“They had to pick themselves up during this game,” said coach Rockwell. “They were down. Then they were up. Then it was tied. They pushed through and got the win.