Placed on hold for the better part of a week by the watery remnants of Tropical Storm Lee — as was a sizable portion of saturated southcentral Pennsylvania — Tony Lougee wasn’t sure what to expect when his Mechanicsburg Wildcats bounced into Memorial Park early Saturday night.
Especially since they’d played so hard and so well and so effectively one weekend earlier while claiming Mechanicsburg’s season-opening tournament.
An early bell-ringer, however, told Lougee everything he needed to know.
Getting two goals from hard-working winger Dean Patton and one each from Alex Panuccio and Joe Lewis — the latter on a snapped headball finish off a Josh Smith corner kick — Lougee’s undefeated Wildcats popped Gettysburg 4-1 in a matchup of former Mid-Penn stablemates.
Goalkeeper Erik Hanson added eight saves for Mechanicsburg (3-0-0), which will visit Waynesboro Monday night for another tuneup before hustling into Keystone Division play Wednesday night when Middletown makes a stop at the Northside Elementary Cage.
Tyler Weikert’s striped whistler from deep on the left flank — which an airborne Hanson got several fingers on — accounted for the lone Gettysburg (2-1-0) finish. The Warriors also played without reigning Colonial Division player of the year Zach Tarbox (red card suspension).
And even though the Wildcats had been idle since besting Trinity (1-0) and Carlisle (2-1) some seven days earlier, Lougee didn’t need to wait too long to see how his club responded.
“Gussie getting in like 30 seconds in and hitting the post, I thought that might have set the tone,” Lougee said, referring to Josh Gustafson’s pop off the right upright. “I was a little worried. We haven’t been together since last Saturday really, with all the weather and all the situations.
“Even [Friday], there was stuff here. It’s just so unusual to have that whole week really with all that downtime. I was just concerned. I don’t think we were as crisp as we could be, but I was certainly glad we came out and played close to the pace we had last weekend.”
Playing quick yet controlled within the confines of their still-blossoming possession attack — while hanging on to the ball for lengthy stretches — a driven Mechanicsburg outfit kept Scott Hancock’s tentative Warriors on the backpedal for most of the opening 10 minutes.
Still, Gettysburg nearly broke through when some neat combination play from Cullin Taylor and Jon Tarbox forced the active Hanson to pop off his line and smother a dangerous chance.
Moments later, target man Panuccio dropped a ball off to his right that an opportunistic Patton promptly slotted past Dakota Myers (3 saves) at the 10:47 mark. Nearly 10 minutes later, Patton connected from nearly the same spot after running on to a long dish from Nick Neverman.
While the Warriors settled down considerably following Patton’s second score — and began to unload a number of shots at Hanson — they didn’t really test the Mechanicsburg junior again until Tyler Smith cracked a dandy from about 25 yards that required a diving stop.
Gettysburg had a terrific chance on the ensuing corner, but a well-struck volley was air-mailed over the cage and into the parking lot behind the east goal.
“It could have easily been 2-1 at halftime,” Hancock said.
It wasn’t, however.
And Mechanicsburg made it 3-0 with 14:14 gone in the second half when Panuccio and Harrison Connors turned some tidy two-man play into a third score. While Weikert’s blast sliced into the Wildcats’ lead some, Lewis’ late snapper off the side of his gourd put this thing out of reach.
“What I told our players was, ‘Last year we played them and got beat 5-0,’¤” Hancock revealed. “Our players felt like that was an unfair score, but I told them when we got back to Gettysburg that ‘they were five goals better than us because we didn’t come ready to play and they took it to us.’
“They deserved to win 5-0. … This year I actually am not convinced the score is an accurate reflection of the difference between the teams. They’re better than us. … Hopefully they win the Keystone, we win our division and we get to play them again. We’ll see if we improve between now and then.”
Same for Mechanicsburg.
“We have so many new guys to varsity, so any game we can play is a big deal for us,” Lougee said. “The games last week against Trinity and Carlisle were just fantastic. Good games to get us going. And this is another great opponent to let us play together and let us sort it out.
“It gets a little better at times, but there’s just so many little things we need to work on.”
Article by Michael Bullock of The Patriot News. Full article can be read by clicking here.