Aggressive play sends Williamsport boys to final

RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent; Williamsport Terrance Hillman (14) battles for possession of the ball with Hazelton's (8)

A Hazleton player stood at the top of his own 18-yard box, patiently waiting for the loose ball to come to him. The ball was in no rush and neither was he. But out of nowhere, like a wrecking ball, in came Williamsport’s Sam Hillman messing everything up for the Cougars. Hillman attacked the ball, gained control and fired a shot into the right side of the goal. The Hazleton keeper was frozen.

The play was just one of many examples of how Williamsport’s aggressiveness, led by Sam Hillman, overpowered Hazleton in the Millionaires’ 4-0 win Wednesday night at Balls Mills in the District 2-4 Class AAAA semifinals. With the win, Williamsport advances to the district championship for the second consecutive year. It will play Delaware Valley, a 1-0 winner over Scranton.

“I can’t say enough about Sam Hillman. He’s not a guy who gets stats but, Coach Confair said to me, ‘Sam’s having a nice game.’ And I said, ‘When’s the last time Sam didn’t have a nice game?’ So it’s good that he’s on our side,” said Williamsport coach Lee Kaar. “Even Tom Pombor and Terrence Hillman, playing right behind Sam, had a very solid effort. Our outsides being able to have some speed out there and attack the sides down in the corners helped as well.”

Hillman led the midfield where they set the tone for aggressive play. When there was a 50/50 ball, Williamsport was going to get it. If Williamsport turned the ball over, seconds later it would force a Hazleton turnover. Hazleton had a tough time even making it across midfield because Williamsport was so aggressive.

“We’ve had some moments this year where you seem to go through 10 minutes of just flat play,” said Kaar. “Sam’s not a rah-rah loud kind of guy. For being as tiny of a guy, he will run you over. He’s definitely never shied away; none of the Hillmans have ever shied away from stepping to the ball. He got into position and cracked one.”

The Williamsport midfield was dominant as the Hillman brothers and Pombor controlled the ball, made things happen offensively, and forced countless turnovers. The Millionaire defense faced little pressure, as did goalie J.R. Confair, who spent most of the night trying to stay warm.  Hazleton had no shots and really put the pressure on only once late in the first half, but Confair was able to scoop up the loose ball.

On Williamsport’s first goal, after forcing a turnover deep in Williamsport’s corner, Pombor carried the ball, unabated, over 50 yards where he found Cam Pardoe all alone in the middle of the field. Pardoe dribbled about 10 more yards and as the goalie came out to defend, Pardoe fired a shot to the left corner for a 1-0 Williamsport lead just 3:30 into the game. Sam Hillman scored his goal 13 minutes later as Williamsport went into the half up 2-0.

Tiarnan Ferry scored Williamsport’s third goal as he made a flashy pull-back move which fooled the Hazleton defender and, from the left side of the goal, fired the shot into the top-right corner at 47:36. Reserve Simon Wallace scored the game’s final goal at 65:58 off a deflected shot.

After the game, Kaar brought his team together to remind them of what happened in last year’s district title game. Many of the players who played on Lake-Lehman’s black turf field in last year’s championship game will try to win Williamsport’s first district title in 21 years when it plays Delaware Valley next Wednesday at Balls Mills.

“Last year’s game was not pleasant. We just kind of recalled that with the guys,” Kaar said. “We had a bunch of guys who got some experience in that game. They remember leaving Lake-Lehman field with a disgusted feeling. So we’re looking to get back and hopefully we can turn the tables and come out on the winning edge.”

Williamsport 4, Hazleton 0

W–Cam Pardoe (Tom Pombor), 3:30; W–Sam Hillman, 15:58; W–Tiarnan Ferry, 47:36; W–Simon Wallace, 65:58.

Shots: H 0, W 20. Corners: H 0, W 7. Saves: H 7 (Tyler Fancher), W 0 (J.R. Confair, Wes Engle)

Records: Hazleton (4-11), Williamsport (11-7).