Wildcats shutout at state
Soccer scoreless in losses to Berean, Rose Hill at finals
TOWANDA – If the De Soto Wildcats had just gotten one goal to go in at the Class 4A-1A state soccer tournament, they might have won it all.
But the Wildcats were shutout by a score of 2-0 twice – the first on Friday night to Berean Academy and then to Rose Hill in the consolation game on Saturday at Towanda-Circle Athletic Complex.
“We come down here and dominate three and a half halves, and we come out 2-0 losers twice. It doesn’t make sense,” soccer coach Darren Erpelding said. “We’re the best team down here. You ask other coaches, they’ll tell you we’re the best team down here. We just didn’t get it done. And it’s really a disservice to this team because this is the best team De Soto has ever had. And we come out here with nothing, and it’s really disappointing.”
Against Rose Hill in the consolation match, the Rockets had two early attacks on the De Soto defense. Keeper Tyler Buffkin blocked the first one in the third minute of the contest, but Rose Hill later scored on of a cross that snuck past him in the seventh minute, and De Soto trailed 1-0 early.
Rose Hill mounted another attack in the 22nd minute, as the Rockets broke free past the De Soto defense and had a two-on-one breakaway. Buffkin made a leaping save on the first shot, but the ball bounced off his hands and rolled right to a Rose Hill player on the left wing, and he shot it in the corner of the net to give Rose Hill a 2-0 lead.
“Buffkin played outstanding,” Erpelding said. “He was a huge reason we were even able to have a chance late in the first half and into the second half. He was the one who kept us in it the first 20 minutes. And even on some of their counterattacks, he made some fantastic saves. Buffkin’s an All-State goalie. He’s one of the top two keepers in the state 4A-1A, and he’s probably one of the top five or six in all classes.”
De Soto regrouped at halftime and came out firing. The Wildcats dominated possession, and had several opportunities early but once again were unable to score.
De Soto continued its second half attack, as quick passing led to shots by Brett Hevel, Sammy Seibolt, Jordan Slater, Octavio Villa, Joe O’Neill and Alex Henning, but none would go in and Rose Hill held off De Soto’s comeback attempt. De Soto totaled 12 shots in the contest and eight on goal but ended the game and tournament scoreless.
“Last night (against Berean), we thought if we would have just got one, things would have unraveled and came together for us, and the same thing today,” Erpelding said. “If we would have got one, I think it just would have happened, and we just couldn’t get that one to make things start going our way. Things just didn’t go our way. The ball didn’t bounce our way.”
After the game, several Wildcat players gathered near midfield, and as hands and jerseys covered their faces, sounds of Rose Hill celebrating its third-place finish were all around them.
The Wildcats then thanked the fans in attendance before lining up to receive their fourth-place medals. Though, the Wildcats didn’t really want those. They wanted a state championship trophy and first-place medals to go with it. But only the top three finishers received a trophy, so the Wildcats went home with no hardware.
The match also was the last one for a group of seniors who were the first to advance to the state tournament since 2003.
“The seniors were unbelievable,” Erpelding said. “And I know sometimes I say this maybe too often, but I don’t know that I’ll ever have a better group of seniors than I’ve had this year. They were just unbelievable from day one when they came in. They came in and they proved themselves, and they’ve been proving themselves all the way through. And it’s really a disservice to these guys, these seniors to leave without any hardware.”
De Soto finishes the season in fourth-place at state and a 12-9 record. In the state championship game St. James Academy beat Berean 3-2.