First, the Canners were chasing a division title.
Now, they’re chasing history.
Biglerville claimed at least a share of the YAIAA-3 championship on Thursday when it racked up a 5-0 win over visiting Fairfield, its closest pursuer within the division. A win in either of their two remaining Y-3 contests – against Delone Catholic (2-10) or Littlestown (8-4-1) – or a loss by the Knights in either of their last two division matches means the crown will reside in Biglerville alone.
“They’ve been busting their butts all year long,” said Canner head coach Jebb Nelson. “They should be proud of themselves; I know we are.”
Even as they begin to train their sights on bigger targets with the playoffs on the horizon, Nelson said a division title is always atop the list of season goals.
“That’s our first prize, because if you win a league title everything else falls in place,” he said. “If you gun for the league title and take one game at a time, good things will happen.”
With an outright division title nearly in hand, this group of Canners could set itself apart should it run the table and close out a perfect regular season.
“This could be the first time in Biglerville history we’ve gone undefeated,” said Nelson “I’ve only not been part of the program for two years and we’ve never had a goose egg.”
Biglerville (14-0, 10-0 Y-3) got on the board in a hurry when Charles Zavala knocked home a monstrous throw-in by Juan Garcia less than three minutes after the opening whistle. Garcia’s powerful tosses easily arch into the box where his eager teammates await.
The lead doubled at 26:10 when Isiah Kuykendall banked his 19th goal of the season. The slick-footed senior ended the night with 93 career points to his credit.
The Knights (10-2, 8-2 Y-3) appeared taken aback by the early multi-goal deficit.
“We did not, by far, play our best game of the year,” said Fairfield head coach Tim Smith. “The two goals in the first half were unfortunate goals for us because we didn’t think that would happen. That long throw-in, we’ve worked on that.”
Biglerville continued its oppressive attack on offense, generating a handful of corners but Knight keeper Eric Ball was up to the task, notching several noteworthy saves. Eventually the Fairfield attackers found their footing, nearly slicing the gap in half when Nate Snyder drilled the right post on a straight-away shot on goal at the 7:50 mark.
Snyder also made a late run in the waning stages of the opening half, dishing off to Chaz Kline whose shot sailed wide of goal.
Nelson knew his team was playing well but also realized how dangerous two-goal leads can be because of their misleading sense of security. Fairfield attempted to bring those fears to life in the first 10 minutes of the second half when it ramped up the intensity on offense and put the Canners on their heels a bit.
Jake Ogle sent a low corner early on, and Kline’s through-ball from the right of the Canner goal had danger written all over it. But the Canners weathered that storm with an iron-clad defense that has allowed just nine goals all season. Nelson pointed to the crew of Zavala, Juan Garcia, Emanuel Esquivias, Tyler Daron, Kody Mendoza and Jacob Mead for their rock-solid play on the back end in front of keeper Rodrigo Beltran. Balls played in by Fairfield were continually gobbled up or kicked aside and turned into Canner counter attacks.
Breathing room for the home side came in the form of a picturesque goal set up by junior Cam Tyson, who curved a sweeping pass across the box to towering Jack Regentin, who deftly headed it into the right corner net. By far the biggest player on the field, Regentin routinely had defenders ping-pong off of him as he made penetrating runs.
“(2-0) is good but we’ve always said 3-0 is the nail in the coffin,” said Nelson.
Smith sensed the air go out of the balloon for his squad when Regentin popped in the third tally.
“I thought we played a lot better in the second half, we just couldn’t get it in,” he said. “If we could’ve got it to 2-1 at halftime it might have been different, but I think they broke our will when they got up 3-0.”
The lead for the hosts grew to 4-0 at 13:13 when Jesus Salazar-Ruelas stuffed home a loose ball that eluded the mitts of Ball in front of the Fairfield net. The final margin was set four minutes later when Kuykendall played a corner kick to Alex Guillen, who flicked it across the line.
Fairfield, which has only lost to Biglerville this season, is still in position to grab a top seed for the District 3 Class 1A playoffs. The Knights trail only High Point Academy in the power rankings with four games left to play, including divisional dates with Littlestown and Bermudian Springs.
“Our goal was to win the league title, and a win today would’ve put us in position to be with Biglerville,” said Smith. “We’ll work tomorrow to get ready for Littlestown on Saturday and keep moving forward. We’ll try to get as high a district rank as we can, that’s our goal now.”
Biglerville is also hunting a No. 1 seed, albeit in Class 2A where it is in an air-tight race with Lancaster Mennonite for the postseason pole position. Sweeping the last four matches could do that, as well as give Nelson his 200th career victory in the final game of the regular season.