Dragons still rolling in states

If you were to ask people around the district if Lewisburg would win a fourth consecutive district championship, have just one loss entering the state playoffs and win a first-round playoff game, no doubt a few in the area would say probably not.

“They lost too much from last year.”

“They’ll have a bit of a down year.”

“There isn’t a ton of experience on the team.”

But for Lewisburg, it’s all just noise from doubters. As coach Skip Kratzer said before the season started, they sort of took on an underdog status this year. Yes, the Green Dragons lost 10 senior starters from last year’s repeat state champions including all-stater Joey Bhangdia, the school’s all-time goal scorer, but that doesn’t matter.

Perhaps Williamsport boys coach Lee Kaar summed it up perfectly after a 2-1 double overtime loss earlier this year to the Green Dragons.

“Lewisburg graduating people, they don’t have to rebuild. It’s just kind of restocking the shelves so to speak,” Kaar said.

And it’s true, that’s what Lewisburg does. No matter what talent they graduate or how many starters they lose from the year before, Lewisburg continues to excel in soccer with whoever they have.

And up next for Lewisburg in its quest for a third consecutive trip to Hershey is District 1 champion New Hope-Solebury in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals on Saturday at Northeastern High School in Manchester at 3 p.m.

Lewisburg senior Tommy Bhangdia knows that regardless of what happened in the past, nothing is guaranteed when the state tournament starts.

“We are going to play with everything we have because we never know when our last game is going to be,” Bhangdia said. “We know that every team we play from here on out will have skill and will be able to compete, so we can’t take any team for granted and have to make sure we come out playing our best.”

Last year the Green Dragons had a three-headed monster up top in Bhangdia (25 goals), Adam Cole (21) and Michael Permyashkin (11). This year, it’s the duo of freshman Ben Liscum (23 goals) and senior Tommy Bhangdia (20).

“I think it has developed a lot over the season. Ben and I have developed a really good chemistry throughout the year and have been really successful with each other to score,” Bhangdia said. “But also a lot of our success relies on other key players, like our outside wings and midfielders, as we try to possess the ball and then look to attack on goal.”

Lewisburg not only has a great offense, but a stingy defense that doesn’t yield much. Entering the state tournament, Lewisburg had only allowed nine goals before surrendering two in a 3-2 first-round win over Scranton Prep, and those two goals allowed were the first goals Lewisburg had given up since a 2-1 win over State College on October 14.

New Hope-Solebury enters Saturday at 13-5-1 and scored 11 goals in its past two games, including six in a win over Pen Argyl. The Lions also have scored at least three times in 11 games.