HERSHEY — Seneca Valley found itself trailing on the scoreboard for just the second time this season in Friday's PIAA Class 4A boys soccer championship game.
Conestoga's Jayce Tharnish put a header past SV goalkeeper Ryan Krumenacker to break a scoreless tie in the 42nd minute.
“With 38 minutes left, I had full confidence that we could push back and get a goal to tie it,” said Raiders' coach George Williams.
But the equalizer never came for SV, which fell to the Pioneers, 1-0, at Hersheypark Stadium.
The Raiders (21-1-1) were the defending state champions.
Conestoga (26-0), which claimed the fifth state crown in school history and snapped Seneca Valley's 36-game unbeaten streak in the process, earned a corner kick in the opening moments of the second half.
Sophomore defender Brady Costin put his foot into the ball left of the net before Tharnish capped the sequence with the game's lone goal.
“When I saw it go in, I thought that's the kind of goals they score,” said Williams. “We did such a great job of stopping that the rest of the night, but Conestoga is a great team, offensively and defensively.
“We got the ball into their third a lot tonight, even got behind them, but we just didn't finish.”
One opportunity the Raiders believed they had capitalized on came in the 23rd minute.
Sophomore midfielder Cole Kamarec booted a shot from 15 yards and the ball sailed past Pioneer goalkeeper Gavin Daly, but the goal was disallowed because the Raiders were ruled to be offside.
“That was tough,” Williams said. “But if they weren't going to allow that one, we just had to score another.”
Conestoga coach Dave Zimmerman was impressed with Seneca Valley.
“We had a couple of really good scoring chances in the first half, but I thought Seneca Valley got the better of the play,” he said. “I was relieved to get through the first half without giving up a goal.”
The Raiders came close to tying the game on several occasions. In the 50th minute, Nathan Prex sent a cross intended for teammate Max Marcotte, but Daly stepped out and snagged the ball before it arrived.
With less than two minutes left, SV placed heavy pressure on Conestoga's defense, but was unable to approach the net. Junior midfielder Beaux Lizewski was resigned to put a shot on Daly from 35 yards. The save was made, ending the Raiders' last scoring chance.
SV felt the frustration so many of Conestoga's opponents dealt with this season. The Pioneers allowed just five goals all season, including just one in their last 19 games.
“Our back line and goalkeeper, they're the best in our school's history,” said Zimmerman. “But I admired the way Seneca Valley played and the way they were coached. They are, by far, the best team we faced this season.”
Krumenacker stopped five shots, including stonewalling Pioneer midfielder Sebastian Tis twice in the first half.
Daly made four saves for Conestoga.
The Raiders won their second straight WPIAL title this season, though the odds seemed to be against them.
“There's so much to be proud of,” Williams said. “Losing 10 starters from last season, these players achieved a lot ... and with all the pressure they faced.”