Lewisburg too much for Deer Lakes boys soccer in state title game

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Saturday, November 21, 2020 | 3:22 PM


Throughout the 2020 season, the Deer Lakes boys soccer team has taken pride in forcing its style of play on opponents.

On Saturday, in the PIAA Class 2A championship game at Hersheypark Stadium, it was Lewisburg (22-0) that dictated how the game would flow.

From the first whistle, Lewisburg dominated play as it scored three goals in each half to cruise to a 6-0 victory over Deer Lakes (17-2) and capture the fourth PIAA title in program history.

“It feels great, and the feeling doesn’t really get old,” Green Dragons coach Ben Kettlewell said. “We really had to game plan around them, though. (Mike) Sullivan is a heck of a player and (Colton) Spence in the back, we had to game plan around them because we knew what they were capable of. But this feels great, and this senior class had this goal in mind.”

Throughout the first half, the Green Dragons controlled the pace of play, put several shots on net and did not allow the Lancers to get comfortable in any part of the field.

Behind Sullivan, the Lancers were able to create one or two opportunities, but nothing came of them as the Lewisburg defense, which did not allow a goal in the playoffs and has only allowed six goals all season, suffocated their opportunities.

Twelve minutes into the game, Lewisburg broke through. Anthony Bhangdia, who led the Green Dragons with 35 goals this season, somehow slipped a pass in front of the net after a Nick Braun save, and Philip Permyashkin finished it off for the first goal.

“With the bobble and all that stuff in the box, I told my guys we were going to get an ugly goal like that, and I think that kind of relaxed us,” Kettlewell said.

For the next 20 minutes, the Lancers continued to bend but not break as the Green Dragons built an onslaught of offensive pressure that few teams have been able to establish against Deer Lakes this season.

But Saturday was a different day.

With just under eight minutes remaining in the half, Jack Dieffenderfer got his first goal of the game off an assist from Penn State commit Ben Liscum. He added his second a few minutes later when James Koconis found him with a pass to the back post that allowed the Green Dragons to go into halftime with a 3-0 lead.

“In the first half, we showed them too much respect,” Deer Lakes coach Dan Yates said. “We sat off them, and we gave them too much space. We were worried about Lewisburg before we even got to the final, and that’s not what we need to do.”

A three-goal deficit can demoralize any team, but the Lancers came out in the second half with an attacking mentality and started to try to dictate their style. But as the half carried on, the Green Dragons took control and scored three more goals, including two in the final five minutes of play.

“We didn’t trouble them in the first half, but in the second, we actually got in their faces and we actually tried to give them a performance, and that’s why it was six,” Yates said. “But you’ve got to go out fighting and swinging.”

Sophomore goalie Nick Braun also made 13 saves in the loss and kept the final margin smaller than what it could’ve been.

The loss, which was Deer Lakes’ second state final appearance in the past three years, brings an end to a historic run for the Lancers over the past three seasons. Led by a core group of seniors who played a crucial role in the program’s first PIAA championship appearance in 2018, the program has ascended as one of the best in the WPIAL.

They have gone 34-8 in the past two seasons and only lost twice in 2020. They made two straight WPIAL championship appearances and captured the first WPIAL title in school history. After they helped him build up the program, Yates was grateful for his seniors.

“I’m super proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish this year,” Yates said. “They are history makers. They won the first WPIAL championship for the school district. They’ve been to the state championship game for the second time in three years, and I could not be prouder of these boys. I really can’t.

“It’s been a fantastic two years, and I’m looking forward to the future. It’s tough to see the seniors go, the seven of them now. It’s tough, but we just have to build for the future now.”

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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