HERSHEY — The rain continued in a heavy stream onto the field at Hersheypark Stadium, where Camp Hill faced off against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic in the PIAA Class 1A title game Saturday.
The score was knotted at 2-2 through the first 80 minutes of action, and as the drenched players of both squads took to the field, the Lions were out looking for a back-to-back title and the Trojans were making it a lot harder than they would have liked.
Just four minutes into the period, however, Jake Coniglio dribbled a ball towards the box and made eye contact with Dylan Mayanja, who was cutting across a defender. He took a chance and fired to Mayanja, who saw a wide open net.
As the ball hit the nylon, Mayanja threw his arms up in victory as he ran towards the middle of the field where his teammates mobbed him.
The Lions are back-to-back state champions.
Many on the Camp Hill (25-1) team will tell you that there were no nerves heading into games in the postseason, and even the biggest game of the them all with a lot on the line. But, for once, the nerves showed up in that overtime period.
“I mean, yeah, there was a little bit,” Mayanja said with a big laugh. “I didn’t want to lose, obviously, and they were dominating us in the second half, so I was kind of nervous. But, we pulled it together in OT and we got a goal. It feels amazing.”
What caused those nerves? The same played that sent the game to OT.
At 74:03, Cardinal (23-2) goaltender Keaton Jennings made a save in bounds a few yards away from the cage and was tackled and taken down by a Lions player. The boos rained down as it was called for a penalty kick.
Ryan Augustine lined up in front of Camp Hill’s Noah Smeriglio and took a shot that easily beat the goalkeeper to tie the game 2-2.
“I was nervous, once they tied it they had all the momentum,” Lions head coach Justin Sheaffer said. “I was thankful that we got in at the end of regulation and we had time to refocus. We got back on the attack and we found a way.”
The Lions knew they were going to have their work cut out for them ever since Tuesday’s PIAA semifinals. The defense for the Trjans kept up with everything the Lions threw at them, but the Lions, like Sheaffer said, found a way to crack it.
Amias Colestock set up a restart kick in front of the net towards Will Earhart, who redirected the ball to Josh Goodyear for the header. Goodyear’s goal put the Lions up early 1-0 at the eight-minute mark and the Lions didn’t let up.
A penalty kick was awarded to the Lions with just 54 seconds to play in the first half. And like the Trojans would nearly 40 minutes later, the Lions made it count. Mayanja tallied one past Jennings with ease to make it a comfortable 2-0 Camp Hill lead at the intermission.
“There’s only so much you can do, it’s all on the boys,” Sheaffer said. “Once they start playing it’s just another game. That’s the nice thing about soccer, as soon as the whistle [blows] you set in and play your game.”
That insurance goal was cashed in the second half, when the Trojans made their run.
At 62:21, Augustine finally cracked the Lions’ armor and pushed them off their game.
As Nick Milas came across the box, a shot to Augustine was redirected perfectly behind Smeriglio for Cardinal’s first goal. From there, the Trojans kept up the pressure trying to find the equalizer, doing so on Augustine’s late PK.
But that stout Camp Hill defense composed itself the rest of regulation. It was long enough for Mayanja to end things once and for all.
The Lions had never won a state title until 2016. They are now two-time champs.
“It’s unbelievable,” Sheaffer said, pausing for a moment and then cracking a big smile. “It really is — it’s a credit to the boys and how hard they worked. They have a lot to be proud of. There’s only one good team that gets to finish here with a win and we’re thankful that the soccer gods smiled on us again this year.
“I hope they enjoy it. It’s not easy to do what they did. And today, it showed.”