The McConnellsburg Spartan soccer team controlled possession and relied on a solid team effort to defeat the Conemaugh Township Indians 3-0 and capture the District Five Class A Soccer Championship Friday at Windber Stadium. The Spartans were led offensively by senior Landon Seiders who netted all 3 goals in the victory. The defense, led by senior goalkeeper Caleb Strait, recorded the shutout, and turned back any scoring opportunity.
After a rather slow start to the championship game, the Spartans started to control possession and develop scoring opportunities. Five minutes into the contest, Seiders was stopped by Indians’ goalkeeper DJ Ciarimboli on a shot from about 20 yards out. The Indians countered immediately with their first good scoring opportunity. After a beautiful run and cross by the Indians winger, Spartan senior goalkeeper Caleb Strait was forced to make a fantastic save on a shot from about 6 yards out. This would be the best scoring chance for the Indians until late in the game, thanks to a marvelous performance by the Spartan defense (senior Brady Daniels and Garrett Bunch and freshman Wyatt Hershey and Kyle Romig).
After the scoring opportunity by the Indians, the Spartans began to control the tempo of the game and dominated in possession. They had several scoring opportunities but could not find the back of the net. Finally, with 33 seconds left in the first half, the Spartans found the back of the net when Seiders collected a pass and unleashed a rocket rom 30 yards out that sailed past the Indian goalkeeper. The Spartans led 1-0 and would never look back.
Momentum continued to build for the Spartans as the second half began. The Spartans missed on a couple very good scoring chances but continued to push forward. 10 minutes into the second half, junior Xavier Buterbaugh came close to extending the lead when his shot hit the crossbar and ricocheted to sophomore Javier Arteaga. Javier redirected the shot on goal but an Indian defender cleared the ball off of the goal line.
Conemaugh attempted to push forward to tie the game. Led by senior defender Brady Daniels, the Spartan defense held and refused to allow the Indians a chance. With just under 22 minutes remaining in the game, Seiders was able to break through the defense and run a through ball down to deposit it into the net for a 2-0 Spartan lead. The Spartans, looking for their first district gold since 2001, did not wait long to extend the lead. Less than 90 seconds later, Seiders put the game on ice and completed his hat trick when he received a pass near the sideline on the right side and launched a shot into the upper corner of the goal to make it 3-0. The countdown began for the Spartans and other than one shot that was saved by defender Wyatt Hershey on the goal line, the Spartans locked down on defense, controlled the midfield, and finished off the final 20 minutes to seal the victory and be crowned District 5 Champions.
“This McConnellsburg team is good. They put 11 quality players on the pitch”, said Indians coach Kelly Kramer. “They’re hard to matchup against . . . “ Spartan coach Cory Houck stated “ It was a wonderful team victory. Landon had a big offensive night. He lives for the big moment and tonight he stepped up.” Houck continued, “He takes the big-game nerves and turns them into a crazy energy”.
The Spartans advance to play in the first round of the PIAA State Playoffs beginning Tuesday, November 5. The Spartans will play the District 3, third place finisher, at Windber Stadium at 5:30pm.
The win improves the Spartan record to 21-0 and gives the Spartans their first District Championship in 18 years. This team is the first McConnellsburg soccer team to finish the regular season with an undefeated record. During this stellar run to the District Championship, the Spartans have set several school records, both individually and as a team.
Senior Landon Seiders is the first Spartan ever to record 100 or more career goals. Landon broke the school record of 90 goals, previously held by Evan Mellott, in early October. He is currently at 104 career goals. Senior goalkeeper Caleb Strait recorded his 14th shutout during the championship game improving on his school record set earlier in the year. The previous record was 11 shutouts and was shared by 3 other keepers.
The Spartans, as a team, have only allowed 6 goals against for the season. This is far below the existing school record of 16 set in 2016. During the regular season, head coach Cory Houck recorded his 100th career win as a coach of the Spartans. The Spartans are riding a 21 game win streak and are looking to become only the second team in Spartan soccer history to win a state playoff game.
2019 has been a year of high expectations and record breaking performances for the Spartans. When asked to sum up the season and the championship, coach Houck stated, “ I am extremely proud of this group of boys. Seven of these seniors began playing on the same team at the age of 4 and have continued to play together throughout their careers. They have played club ball, indoor leagues, summer leagues, and with various other clubs and organizations. They have worked extremely hard and have set high expectations of themselves and the team.” Coach Houck was quick to credit the expertise, leadership, and assistance of his coaching staff, particularly assistant Jacob Corl. Along with Houck and Corl, the Spartans are coached by Colton Strait and Hunter Souders. Houck continued, “We have great senior leadership, but we are also fortunate to have a large group of underclassmen that are ready to step in when called upon. Losing 7 starters in one year could be tough, but we have a large group of freshmen that have contributed this year and are ready to keep the ball moving.”
Entering the season, the Spartans had several goals. These included hosting a first-round playoff game, winning a district championship, and making a deep run into the PIAA playoffs. They have accomplished the first two of these with a total team effort. The Spartans begin their quest for the third major goal, and a piece of history on Tuesday at Windber Stadium.