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Dam It! Deer Lakes blanks Beaver for WPIAL 2A boys soccer title

Deer Lakes boys soccer

PITTSBURGH — As far as Deer Lakes head coach Aaron Smith was concerned, it was only fitting that a new class would grab the torch from his historic seven-man senior group to lead his team to its second district championship in three years.

Freshman midfielder Jacob Orseno scored the golden goal in the 88th minute to give the Lancers (20-2) a 1-0 victory over Beaver after the first period of extra time in the WPIAL Boys Class 2A Soccer Final before a crowd of 1,152 at Highmark Stadium Thursday night.

After some heavy buildup around the Bobcats’ (14-7) 18-yard box, Orseno accepted a sneaky give-and-go from forward and fellow rookie Peyton Kushon. He got behind the Beaver defense just long enough to fire a shot from the top of the box that bounced off the right post and in behind junior goalkeeper Robert Cestra.

The Deer Lakes duo were two of four freshmen in the starting XI for Smith, who joined current Robert Morris men’s assistant Dan Yates as the second different coach to guide the Lancers to a WPIAL title.

In Boys 2A, a classification of many schools that has been dominated, in recent years, by very few, Deer Lakes is looking toward the dawn of a new era.

“As soon as they came off the field, for the start of overtime, I could see it in their faces. They were ready to play,” said Smith. “We’ve got kids coming in who have talent, and if I can get them to believe, like these freshmen have, that they can compete with kids two or three years older than them, they’re going to have a nice future playing here. And I’m happy we have the freshmen that we do.”

The varsity newcomers helped the Lancers maneuver skillfully in their 3-4-3 formation and dominate possession, ultimately by a 58% to 42% margin, throughout the night.

Their reluctance to use the middle of the field, perhaps a byproduct of their inexperience, allowed Beaver to maintain a fairly rigid 4-4-2 shape, and the back line of Henry and Jacob Harris, Luke Tomalski and Gabriel Forcella to limit the high-percentage chances for the Lancers in regulation.

Deer Lakes registered 11 shots to Beaver’s six, including seven in the first half, but only five made it on target.

Furthermore, Smith’s seniors still needed to have a say in the matter when the Bobcats, coming off very taxing upsets of Shady Side Academy and defending champion Quaker Valley, and relying on a deep bench to keep their legs fresh, nearly pulled off another head-turner in the 78th minute.

That’s when the counter-attacking Beaver side finally earned its first two corner kicks of the match, consecutively and at opposite flags. In both instances, an inswinging ball from Kyle Carlsen had to be cleared off the line by co-captain Ryan Hanes.

The former glanced off the inside of the same post that was much more kind to Orseno, before Hanes’ alert defending.

Of equal importance, as senior leadership moments went, was the emotional support that the young man between the posts provided Kushon, after the latter was unable to finish a convenient Ruger Beer rebound into a yawning net moments before halftime.

“My captain, Nick Braun, told me that if I look down, it’s just going to show weakness to the other team, and they’ll take advantage of that,” Kushon said. “So I knew I had to keep my head up, which is pretty much what our talk at halftime was all about.”

Fortunately for Deer Lakes, the next time he lowered his head would be to accept his gold medal.

After finishing second on the team in scoring with 17 goals and four assists in the regular season, and after injuring his hamstring on another quality chance, this time in a collision with Jacob Harris above the arc, Kushon hung tough enough to contribute to one of the biggest scoring plays in program history.

“We’re kind of like a family. When we have problems, we know we just have to get over them. We can’t look in the past,” said overtime hero Orseno.

“That ball popped out, and I was there. I just finished it. It was easy as that.”

“The little engine that could,” a smiling Smith added. “I’m not surprised by him. We count on him a lot for a freshman. He’s just in the right place at the right time, and it happened again tonight.”

His Lancers, whose Section 2 co-championship was good for a No. 4 seed in the WPIAL playoffs, enter next week’s PIAA Boys 2A tournament on the heels of a fourth straight 1-nil postseason result.

The surprising Bobcats, who carried their No. 6 seed to within mere inches of their first championship in team history under head coach Scott Hazuda, will join them, and the Quakers side they just dethroned, as the other WPIAL Boys 2A entrants into the state playoffs.

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