Tuesday, October 24, 2017
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Ephrata wins League Crown


Two imaginary hurdles stood in Ephrata's way.
 
The first was that the Mountaineers had never won a league title. The second was they had never beaten Manheim Township. Ever.
 
To get the first they would have to achieve the second.
 
Ephrata cleared both hurdles Friday night with an 8-5 win over the Blue Streaks in the L-L League boys' lacrosse championship game at Penn Manor.
 
The game was a rematch of last year's title game, in which Township beat Ephrata 17-2.
 
"We finally got that monkey off of our backs," Mounts goalie Brian Neff said. "We beat Hempfield for the first time last year and we finally beat Township."
 
Ephrata, which became the first team other than Hempfield and Township to win a league crown, hoisted the championship trophy because of valuable experience and some added motivation.
 
"This is the final class that Mike (Ream) coached," Ephrata coach Kevin Pletz said of the Mounts' former head coach, who passed away at the beginning of the 2010 season. "This means a lot for them to get a championship for him. It's all been for Mike. They've been playing all season for him."
 
Ephrata (18-2) used both its experience and motivation to dig out of an early 2-0 hole courtesy of goals by Township's Ryan Morgan and Chase Miller. The Mounts pumped in three straight, with a goal each by Mason Quickel, Joey Sellers and Evan Hornberger, to take a 3-2 first-quarter lead.
 
"Experience is huge and that showed when we went down by two early in the game," Pletz said. "Our senior leadership got us back on track after that."
 
Township (15-5) eventually evened the game late in the second quarter when Dillon O'Dell found Chris Augeri with 1:16 left before halftime.
 
Ephrata took the lead for good 22 seconds later when Tucker Keefer hooked up with Sellers to give the Mounts a 4-3 halftime lead.
 
 
Joey Sellers, one of three Mountaineers to score two goals, cranks up during
Friday's league title game against Manheim Township. © Marty Heisey — Intelligencer
 
 
 
 
"At times we got away from our game plan," MT coach Kyle Wimer explained. "We showed some of our youth early in the game and couldn't get back on track.
 
"But hats off to Ephrata. They played well as a team all game long."
 
Quickel found Hornberger for his second quick-stick goal to start the third quarter, which gave the Mounts some cushion, 5-3.
 
"That's what he's on the field for," Pletz said of Hornberger. "He has a knack of getting open in front of the crease and the guys do a good job of finding him."
 
Quickel followed Hornberger's score with one of his own to put Ephrata ahead 6-3 with 4:43 left in the third.
 
Township had an extra-man opportunity late in the third quarter but came up empty after Neff (11 saves) stoned a pair of one-on-one shots by the Streaks.
 
"When you have a chance to finish a shot you have to bury it," Wimer said. "We didn't. Whether it was a deflected shot, or Neff saving it, we didn't finish our shots."
 
Willy Hendrick ended Township's scoring drought when Seth Harris fed him late in the third, but Ephrata's Josh Frey answered with a goal with 15 seconds left in the third.
 
Hendrick's goal with 6:31 left in the game got Township within two, 7-5, but Ephrata iced the game with an empty-net goal from Dakota Keefer with 56 seconds left.
 
"They made the most of their opportunities with the right decisions," said Wimer.
 
Ephrata's faceoff specialist Tyler Sensenig won 9 of 17 faceoffs, with 5 of 8 wins coming in the second half. Many of them allowed the Mounts to outscore MT 4-2 in the final two quarters.
 
"Tyler did what we needed him to do," Pletz recalled. "Faceoffs are huge because they can keep momentum going after a score or stop momentum after the other team scores."
 
The Mounts' defense was relentless all night. Anchored by Neff, and fueled by long pole Alex Pstrak, Ephrata contested almost every Township shot and prevented congestion in front of the crease.
 
"We played our best game of the season," Neff said. "Everyone stepped up tonight and played their roles."
 
Pletz agreed.
 
"Everyone played fundamentally strong and that's the backbone of this team," he said. "Our defense forced them into quick shots and our offense waited for the right shots."
 
And in the end it was the right time for the Mountaineers to finally strike gold.