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A Green Light: Lewisburg Ends Deer Lakes’ Historic Season in PIAA Boys 2A Final

File photo courtesy Justin Berl
PIAA Class 2A Boys Soccer Final 

FINAL: Lewisburg 6, Deer Lakes 0

Dragons win 4th PIAA championship, WPIAL champion Lancers runner-up 2nd time in 3 years 


The WPIAL Boys 2A champions, having played the majority of the 2020 postseason on their front foot, spent Saturday afternoon almost entirely on their heels, watching a clinical Lewisburg side earn a 16th clean sheet and fourth PIAA crown in dominant fashion at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Sophomore keeper Nick Braun, arguably the man of the match with his dozen saves, was also its most beleaguered participant from the opening whistle. Deer Lakes, unable to mount a counterattack, apart from a pair of uneventful corner kicks earned by district Class 2A Player of the Year Michael Sullivan, conceded three times in the first half after doing so nine times altogether entering Saturday.

Braun’s best sequence came in the 65th minute. His constant aggression, mirroring that of the Green Dragons’ offense, enabled him to stave off an opportunity for James Koconis, who had beaten the Lancers’ backline down the right wing. Moving laterally, Braun then thwarted a follow-up try by Jack Dieffenderfer off Koconis’ rebound before stopping a set piece redirected by Anthony Bhangdia moments later.

Bhangdia, outworking Nate Litrun inside the box, set up the only goal Lewisburg needed in the 13th minute. He lost his footing as he tried to center the ball, but still completed his pass to an open Phillip Permyashkin, fresh off the bench. Permyashkin, symbolic of the Green Dragons’ depth, tapped in the game-winner with minimal fuss.

The floodgates opened for good 20 minutes later, as Dieffenderfer approached the top left corner of the box and beat Braun with a quality strike low and to the bottom right. He quickly earned his brace by finishing a textbook two-on-one from Koconis in the 36th.

Lewisburg kept the pitch tilted after the intermission. The District 4 champs used more tic-tac-toe ball movement to get Koconis his own brace (61′, 78′), and Penn State commit Ben Liscum, who forced Braun’s first save of the day, salted the Lancers’ wounds with a straight-away strike from medium distance in the 77th minute, his 35th goal of the year.

Deer Lakes saw an overall 13-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Green Dragons, who outscored opponents by an eyebrow-raising aggregate of 157-6 en route to their PIAA championship.

The legendary Lancers of 2020 graduate seven seniors: Tristan Hineman, Tony Wanamaker, Ronan Renter, leading state tournament scorer Ryan Rodgers, and co-captains Colton Spence, Devin Murray and Sullivan.

Sullivan, also an All-PIAA selection as an attacking midfielder, registered 20 goals and ten assists in his final high school campaign.

Gameday Updates

80′ – Full time from Hersheypark Stadium, Deer Lakes 0-6 Lewisburg.

The Dragons get their fourth PIAA title and a perfect 22-0 season.

Deer Lakes settles for a second PIAA silver in three years and ends an excellent 2020 season as a first-time WPIAL champion.

Liam Neeson, playing a Jedi master, said in the first “Star Wars” prequel that “there’s always a bigger fish.” Deer Lakes, after relishing that role throughout the district playoffs, and earlier rounds of the state tournament, ran afoul of the bigger fish today.

More to come.

78′ – Koconis piles on. Deer Lakes is taking chances up the field, and Lewisburg burns them with team speed, catching an over-committing Braun leaning the wrong way. Moments later, Mitchell shoots low to force Tony Burns’ second save of the match. DL 0-6 LGD

77′ – Liscum gets into the act after all, as his 30-yard rug-burner to the right gets underneath a diving braun. 35th goal of the season for the PSU commit. DL 0-5 LGD

73′ – Jake McCutcheon, on the right wing, sets up Ryan Rodgers, who has scored each of Deer Lakes’ last four goals, and all of them in the state semis. Rodgers pushes the ball, through a crowd, wide of the left post. DL 0-4 LGD

68′ – Liscum fakes out a man, but can’t fool Braun, who is now up to double-digit saves after corralling a Lewisburg follow-up attempt deep inside the box off Liscum’s unsuccessful try. The Lancers have done a pretty good job containing Liscum, but unfortunately, with Lewisburg’s depth, it hasn’t mattered. DL 0-4 LGD

65′ – Braun, scoreline aside, continues to be the MVP of this game for Deer Lakes. He comes well off his line to deny Koconis and Dieffenderfer on opposite sides, on the same sequence, then he cuts out a redirection by Bhangdia. DL 0-4 LGD

61′ – Koconis applies the exclamation point on a deep, and skillful, cross from Nick Passaniti. Four goals, and soon, it appears, a fourth state title for Lewisburg. Deer Lakes’ defense continues to be simply out-classed by the Dragons’ attack. DL 0-4 LGD

57′ – Braun is doing his best, yet again, not to end a memorable sophomore campaign on a sour note. He swats away an indirect free kick from the left elbow that nobody else, for either side, could reach. DL 0-3 LGD

53′ – Renter’s attempt from the right side of the box is blocked. The Lancers can’t get anything going off the corner kick, either. As a gentle reminder, the Dragons have conceded only six times(!) all year. DL 0-3 LGD

51′ – Liscum’s direct free kick from roughly 25 yards out goes over Braun’s head, and the bar. Neither team has looked particularly sharp on set pieces, but Lewisburg’s general dominance of the run of play has made the point moot. DL 0-3 LGD

47′ – Sullivan is well marked, but then dragged down, obviously, at the top of the attacking third without a call. Not much action for either side early in the half, but that moment seems to sum up the afternoon for Deer Lakes. DL 0-3 LGD

41′ – Lewisburg gets the first touch of the second half. DL 0-3 LGD

ANALYSIS: We know Deer Lakes can handle discomfort well, as evidenced in the WPIAL championship match, but this team is visibly overwhelmed by the Lewisburg attack, which has been surgical and in full control practically from the opening whistle. The Dragons’ state playoff pedigree of the past decade is quite evident.

40′ – Halftime at Hershey, Deer Lakes 0-3 Lewisburg.

38′ – To his credit, Nick Braun does not appear ready to throw in the towel. He stays right with Bhangdia after the entire Lancers defense is beaten with a Liscum long ball, and he makes a nice point-blank stop. DL 0-3 LGD

36′ – Make it three, and a brace for Dieffenderfer. James Koconis, flying down the right side, enters the box and draws Braun out of position, and the former taps it home. Lewisburg continues to play a clinical first half offensively. DL 0-3 LGD

33′ – Dieffenderfer doubles the advantage for Lewisburg. 29th goal of the season (and 30th helper for Liscum) is a low drive to the bottom right corner of goal. Nothing really that Braun could have done about that one. DL 0-2 LGD

30′ – Case in point: Dieffenderfer crosses to his right, and the ball is dummied for Liscum, but Braun, against the grain, makes a nice falling save. The Lancers continue to play on their heels. DL 0-1 LGD

29′ – Consecutive corners to the Green Dragons, from opposite sides of the pitch, sail beyond the backline. Still, the aggression of this Lewisburg offense remains the story thus far. DL 0-1 LGD

27′ – Sullivan opts for a bad-angle shot from the low left that results in a second consecutive corner kick for DL. But again, the Lancers have too many green jerseys to tussle with and can’t work the ball anywhere near goal. DL 0-1 LGD

22′ – Dieffenderfer, from about 12 yards out, misses wide to the left. Braun and the Lancers dodge a real bullet there, as the Dragons make a couple subs. DL 0-1 LGD

21′ – Sullivan draws a double-, then triple-, team in the near corner. The 2020 WPIAL Class 2A Player of the Year’s deep cross is grabbed out of midair by Tony Burns. DL 0-1 LGD

18′ – In for DL is Ronan Renter, out for DL is fellow midfielder Ruger Beer, the hero of the WPIAL championship shootout. Renter, of course, wore the cape in the state quarterfinals with his own game-winning strike. DL 0-1 LGD

13′ – Goal to the Green Dragons. Bhangdia penetrates the box, out-muscles Litrun and centers for Phillip Permyashkin as he’s going down. Permyashkin finishes easily. DL 0-1 LGD

12′ – Braun hasn’t been particularly busy in the state playoffs, but he’s already got three saves in this first half. His calculated risk coming off the line denies Bhangdia right in front. DL 0-0 LGD

10′ – DL finally sustains possession enough to generate a scoring chance. Sullivan earns a corner kick at the near flag, but the Lewisburg back line is game. Dieffenderfer forces a save from Braun on the right wing in transition. DL 0-0 LGD

5′ – Braun misjudges another corner kick that lands over his head along the goal line, but Devin Murray is there to clear it away. DL 0-0 LGD

2′ – Nick Braun jumps to deny Liscum from over 20 yards away, right down the middle. Corner kick to Lewisburg is successfully defended. DL 0-0 LGD

1′ – Game on in Chocolate Town! Deer Lakes gets the first touch.


Match Preview 

In 2018, Deer Lakes surprised a lot of folks by making it to the PIAA Class 2A boys final as third-place finisher in the WPIAL. That year, they came up short, losing in overtime, 1-0, to Fleetwood.

Led by trio of seniors including Michael Sullivan, Colton Spence and Devon Murray, along with Ryan Rodgers at the top, the Lancers have been a talented and playoff-hardened team on a mission after postseason disappointments in 2018 and in 2019, when they lost the WPIAL final in overtime to Quaker Valley.

It’s already been a benchmark campaign for the Lancers, as they captured its first-ever WPIAL title by beating section rival Shady Side Academy in a match that went to penalty kick shootout. Sullivan, who’s earned All-State and All-WPIAL honors this year, lifted his team back into the match with a terrific individual effort late in the WPIAL Final, much like he did against Shady Side in the regular season in our Pittsburgh Soccer Now featured match.

Year of the Deer: Lancers Capture Elusive 2A Boys Title in Heart-Stopping Shootout

Despite getting this far, and having talented midfield and attacking options, Deer Lakes might not even be at this point without sophomore goalkeeper Nick Braun, who came up big in that WPIAL title game by saving a penalty kick in the first half, then made three more saves on PKs in the ensuing shootout at the end of the match. A solid defensive group, Braun and the solid back line have posted four postseason shutouts and only allowed two goals in seven postseason matches.

Head Coach Dan Yates and his players have carried themselves with much confidence this season and won’t be satisfied until they lift a PIAA championship trophy.

“It’s been awesome around here after the WPIAL championship game, but we knew we weren’t done,” said Rodgers. “We want to go to states, and we’ve got a different mindset this time.”

Deer Lakes is a winner of 13 straight and producer of three clean sheets in six postseason outings.

After a meddling 2-0 win vs Karns City, the Lancers had a showdown with District 10 champion Fairview in the PIAA semifinal, overcoming the snowy elements — and cruised to a 3-0 win to get back to Hershey.

Ed Thompson was there on Tuesday night to capture their semifinal win with some great images.

Ed Thompson Photo Gallery (Deer Lakes vs Fairview – PIAA Semifinal) 

Deer Lakes will have its hands full on Saturday with Lewisburg.

The Green Dragons are proven commodity — and a program searching for its fourth state title as they’re on a quest to complete a perfect season while outscoring opponents 151-6, recording 15 shutouts. They bring a balanced attack into this match-up, with four players have scored double-digit goals. Senior Anthony Bhangdia leads the team with 35 goals and 13 assists. Senior Ben Liscum is right behind with 34 goals and 29 assists.

No team has scored more than a goal on Lewisburg this season, and junior goalie Tony Burns has made 36 saves on 41 shots on goal.

PSN Interview with Dan Yates prior to WPIAL FInal 

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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