HERSHEY - A year ago, Greenwood was the side that lacked experience in the district championship match, and the Wildcats lost to a York Catholic side that had appeared there the previous season.
This time, the shoe was on the other foot, so to say.
Greenwood returned to the title match, facing a Biglerville squad that had very little experience on the stage, and the Wildcats emerged with their first district title in school history as they defeated the Canners, 3-1, in the District 3 Class A boys soccer championship game Saturday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium.
"I think that having the experience from being here last year made a difference for us," Greenwood coach Tom Magill said. "It wasn't always pretty today, but we were effective inside the 18 and did enough to get the win."
Biglerville (15-7-1) had two players, Nate Fox and Harley Weigle, who played on their school's 2009 title-winning squad as freshman. Both squads have qualified for the PIAA Class A tournament, which begins on Tuesday.
Greenwood takes on District 4 runner-up Benton in the first round.
*Greenwood plays Benton?Tuesday at Lower Dauphin
In addition to the title game experience, the Wildcats also had experienced beating the Canners a year ago, as they took them out in the quarterfinals. On Saturday, the early going was a little bit of a feeling out process for both teams, and they each registered a shot on goal in the first seven minutes.
Eight minutes into the game, Greenwood's Hunter Roth entered to replace an injured teammate. It didn't take long for Roth to make his presence felt in the match as he netted the first goal of the contest with a sliding finish of a loose ball in front of the net with 30:58 to play in the opening half.
"Roth gave us a big spark off the bench," Magill said.
The 'Cats also were served well by keeper Ryan Kerstetter, who denied all three Biglerville shots that came his way in the first half.
Greenwood (19-2) doubled its lead when Josh Ferguson scored off an assist from Jarrett Fortenbaugh with 8:35 remaining until intermission. Fortenbaugh played a cross from the left that Canner keeper Gerry Lua couldn't quite handle and Ferguson made him pay as he knocked it to the back of the net.
Trailing 2-0 at the half, and now having the stiff wind that blew throughout the match at its back in the second half, Biglerville went about getting back into the match and sliced the deficit in half when Mario Ortega netted his 10th goal of the campaign, an unassisted tally with 38:40 left. He took possession on the left wing, juked a pair of defenders and beat Kerstetter with a shot to the near post.
Biglerville continued to impose its will on the action throughout the second half, only to see Kerstetter stonewall every chance the Canners created. Included in that were back-to-back denials with just over eight minutes to go. First, he denied another Ortega shot with a diving save, then recovered in time to stop Matt Cellucci's close range shot fewer than five seconds later.
"We had plenty of opportunities in the second half, but couldn't finish them," Biglerville coach Jebb Nelson said. "At the same time, their keeper was fantastic."
Ferguson tallied his 47th goal of the season when he finished a throw-in from Alex Potter with 5:31 to go to put the match away.
"They completely dominated when they had the wind in the second half, and played us even in the first half when they didn't," Magill said. "We just hoped to hold on, then we got a big goal late to open it up a little bit."
The Canners had many opportunities in both halves. But those never got dangerous due to the way Kerstetter defended them, as he came out from in front of his net to catch them or punch them away, eliminating chances for Biglerville to do damage.
"We knew about their throw-ins from reading the paper," Magill said. "We worked hard on that in practice yesterday, and told him to come out and play the long throw."