OWINGS MILLS, Md. - After serving as the team's manager for the last four seasons, Stevenson men's soccer senior Kyle Kauffman (Lancaster, Pa./Octarora) made his career debut on Tuesday, making his first career start and playing 18 minutes as the Mustangs won a crucial Commonwealth Conference contest versus Hood at Mustang Stadium, 2-0.
With one game left this season, the win kept Stevenson (8-9-1, 3-4-1 MAC) alive for a spot in the 2012 Commonwealth Conference Men's Soccer Championship that begins next Tuesday.
A win against Alvernia on Senior Night, and losses by Arcadia and Albright, would secure the Mustangs a spot in the conference tournament in their first season. Arcadia hosts third-place Lebanon Valley, who secured its spot in the tournament with a win on Tuesday, while Albright travels to first-place and No. 1-ranked Messiah.
However, the most important thing on everyone's mind on Tuesday was the debut of Kyle Kauffman. After receiving a standing ovation during introductions, he registered the game's first shot from in the box that was saved by Hood's Ryan Deuber just 32 seconds in.
Kauffman, who has cerebral palsy, played the game's first 11 minutes before being subbed out, leaving the game to another standing ovation. He would later return in the game's 84th minute, finishing the game on the field with the ball in his possession.
After the game, Kauffman made his way over to the Mustang Stadium crowd of 801 and blew kisses to his family before bowing in appreciation of the fans' support. From there, he was congratulated individually by each player and coach on the Hood roster before embracing head coach John Plevyak in an emotional moment at midfield.
In between Kyle's appearances on Tuesday, the Mustangs managed to win their fourth game in the last six at home while moving one game below .500 for the season.
After a scoreless first half, Stevenson took a 1-0 lead in the 50th minute on an own goal after a cross by junior Christopher Panian (Monkton, Md./John Carroll) was knocked in by a Blazer defender.
The Mustangs would get an insurance goal just 5:06 later when senior Chris Contino (Middlesex, N.J./Middlesex) netted his first of the season and first of his career off an assist from junior Steve Hamilton (Manchester, Md./North Carroll). Contino entered Tuesday with two assists in 39 career games.
Meanwhile, the assist was the fourth in the last two games for Hamilton and his sixth point of the season, all of which have come in the two contests after he had a goal and three assists in Saturday's 4-4 double overtime draw at Albright.
Stevenson outshot Hood (3-10-2, 0-8 MAC) 16-9 while holding an 8-4 advantage in corner kicks. Freshman Kenneth Hersey (Clarksville, Md./Atholton) made seven saves in the victory while Deuber had nine for the Blazers.
In addition to Kauffman's first career appearance on Tuesday, Stevenson also held a fundraiser to raise awareness and funds for pancreatic cancer research, specifially for Team Reason and the Ron Smith Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund at Johns Hopkins' Kimmel Cancer Center.
The Mustangs conclude the regular season against Alvernia at home on Saturday on Senior Night where they will honor Kauffman, Contino, Kevin Rama (Upper Marlboro, Md./DeMatha), Bradley Davis (Perry Hall, Md./Archbishop Curley), Ryan Pierce (Cherry Hill, N.J./Cherry Hill West), Josh Brewer (Ocean City, N.J./Ocean City) and John Adamo (Glassboro, N.J./Washington Township).
Game time is at 6:00 p.m.