Deer Lakes seniors hope to leave final mark on program with victory in PIAA title game

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Friday, November 20, 2020 | 2:21 PM


For the past month, the Deer Lakes boys soccer team has been playing some of its best soccer.

It has resulted in seven straight wins, a WPIAL Class 2A championship and a berth in the PIAA finals.

The Lancers (17-1) have been treating every game like a championship, and Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. contest against District 4 champion Lewisburg (21-0) at Hersheypark Stadium will be their final and most important test.

“I think the boys are confident because we have seven or eight game-changers on our team that at any one point, they can change a game and do something out of nowhere,” Deer Lakes coach Dan Yates said. “Ryan Rodgers scored a hat trick out of nowhere on Tuesday. It is not just the household names that can win games. So, we’re going to be confident.”

After winning seven straight games by a combined score of 22-2, it is hard not to be confident, but the Lancers have one of their toughest matchups ahead of them Saturday.

The undefeated Green Dragons enter the PIAA title game having outscored opponents 151-6. They have not allowed more than one goal in a game and have been limited to one goal just once.

Lewisburg also has three goal scorers with 28 goals or more. Senior Anthony Bhangdia leads the team with 35 and classmate Ben Liscum is right behind with 34 goals and 29 assists. Yates compared them to a few opponents they see on a yearly basis.

“They are kind of like a mix of Burrell and Shady Side,” Yates said. “They play, but they also get forward faster with a couple of players. It’s going to be good for us, and it was good to have that game against Fairview even though the (snowy) conditions were terrible. But I thought we managed the game exceptionally well.”

Lewisburg has a rich history of winning in Hersheypark. Since 2000, the Green Dragons have won three state titles and gone back to back in 2015-16, beating South Park, 4-0, and Quaker Valley, 1-0.

The Lancers are making their second PIAA finals appearance. They fell to Fleetwood, 1-0, two years ago when the current seniors were sophomores. Those same players are more comfortable this time around.

“It gets rid of nerves for a couple of us, but these younger guys, it’s going to be a great experience for them,” senior captain Colton Spence said. “They are going to get a feel of what a state championship feels like.”

It is not like the Lancers have never played in big games before. They just won the program’s first WPIAL title, took last season’s WPIAL and PIAA champions to double overtime in the WPIAL championship and have tested themselves against perennial powers like Shady Side Academy all year.

For the Lancers, it does not matter the size of the game but just how they execute their game plan. Yates believes his players have the talent to do just that.

“We’ll always play the way we play,” Yates said. “Yes, it’s a championship game for states, and if things don’t go our way, then we are going to have to change. These boys know that, and we’ll have to adapt to that. After watching their film, though, I think our style of play will fit with them.”

Two years ago, the Deer Lakes seniors stepped off the bus as young sophomores on the biggest stage for Pennsylvania high school soccer. Now, they are returning as experienced players and are looking to leave their final mark on the program.

“We have just wanted to win titles for our school, and we weren’t able to do that when we were younger,” senior Devin Murray said. “This is our final year to leave a mark and change the program forever.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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