Deer Lakes, Shady Side Academy prepare to settle score in 3rd matchup of season

Wednesday, November 4, 2020 | 12:35 PM

In the past four years, the No. 2 Deer Lakes Lancers and No. 1 Shady Side Academy have met 10 times: eight times in the regular season, and twice in the postseason.

On Thursday at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium, the teams will meet for the third time this season with WPIAL gold on the line.

“It’s more challenging to predict what they are going to do and for them to figure out what you are going to do because you know each other so intimately,” Shady Side Academy coach Ed Ellsworth said. “There’s not many secrets left to uncover between the two groups when you’ve played games we’ve played in section, in playoffs, in states. There’s not too many secrets left.”

For the past two seasons, the teams have split their regular-season contests with both teams protecting their home field. This season, Shady Side scored two first-half goals to earn a 2-1 win, then Deer Lakes senior Mike Sullivan scored twice to lead the Lancers to a 2-0 victory.

As the teams get set to meet in the WPIAL title game, both are starting to hit their stride at just the right time.

The Lancers, who capped off their run to the WPIAL finals with a 7-1 win over No. 6 Mt. Pleasant on Monday, have won their last 11 games and have allowed five goals during that stretch. The key to the Lancers’ success has been the play of their entire team rather than a few select individuals.

Throughout the season, captains Devin Murray, Colton Spence and Sullivan have played a primary role, but the emergence of players like Ryan Rodgers, Ronan Renter and Ryan Hanes up front and Nate Litrun on the backline, along with others, has allowed Deer Lakes to take its play to a whole new level.

“I feel like it’s finally clicking at this point now, and it’s where I thought it would be,” Deer Lakes coach Dan Yates said. “It’s good for the other boys now because we know they can do it and it helps out the likes of Sullivan, Dev and Spence. We know they can step up and play and score, and I’m really happy about that.”

Shady Side has won five straight games since losing to the Lancers on Oct. 14 and has allowed three goals since then. It beat Hopewell and Ambridge and also defeated No. 4 Elizabeth Forward, 4-0, on Monday to advance to the finals.

“It’s a base expectation at this school, and we talk about it every day,” Ellsworth said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity, and these opportunities don’t happen to everybody. They don’t. So we never take it for granted that it is a wonderful opportunity in front of us, and I’m sure Deer Lakes will approach it the exact same way.”

While Shady Side has its expectations set, the Lancers still are working toward having those types of standards year in and year out. But after coming so close last season and having the WPIAL title at their fingertips, the Lancers have had the goal of getting back to the championship game since last fall.

Now they are here, and there’s only one thing on their mind.

“The goal is to win it now,” Yates said. “It’s going to be a good game. They beat us. We beat them. It’s at a neutral venue.”

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

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