Lewisburg adjusts to Midd-West’s defense, scores crucial win
LEWISBURG — Anthony Bhangdia knew this was his chance. The junior saw an opening and used his speed to beat Stefan Leitzel, Midd-West’s skilled and lengthy last defender. Step for step with Bhangdia, Lewisburg teammate Anton Permyashkin knocked over the pass to the streaking striker, setting up a 1-on-1 with the goalie.
Bhangdia took advantage, firing into the far left corner and before the ball blasted the back of the net.
The celebration was on.
Bhangdia drilled two goals, including the game-winner in the 85th minute, to lift Lewisburg over Midd-West, 3-2, in overtime Tuesday afternoon in a battle of undefeated and state-ranked HAC-II foes.
After falling to Midd-West three times last season by a combined two goals, including a district semifinal loss which ended in a shootout, the Green Dragons finally slayed the Mustangs and are once again atop the conference standings and, for now, the the district’s class of AA.
“It gives us a lot of confidence because it gives us momentum for the rest of the season and it gives us confidence because now we know we’re the team to beat,” Bhangdia said.
“We look at it as a game in the midst of 18 but it does have a little bit of special feelings,” Lewisburg coach Ben Kettlewell said.
That jubilation reached a peak with Bhangdia’s second goal, but it was short lived. Lewisburg (6-0-1) knows it has bigger goals, but yesterday was a start.
After struggling with Midd-West’s newly implemented offsides trap, Bhangdia broke through for his first goal in the 28th minute when James Koconis laid out a perfectly placed through ball which split the Midd-West backline. That goal, which came 3 1/2 minutes after Midd-West’s opening goal, put an end to a frustrating opening 13 minutes for Bhangida.
Midd-West’s backline smartly pushed up to nearly midfield, shortening the field and neutralizing one of Lewisburg’s best assets, its speed. The Green Dragons were called offsides nearly 10 times in the opening 15 minutes. Bhangdia alone was called offsides three times in the opening eight minutes, and they were the correct calls.
“We had other opportunities off it as well besides the goals. We just kind of talked, there’s certain ways you can beat the offsides trap,” Kettlewell said. “We kind of talked about, we need to do more of that and this is the first Midd-West team I’ve ever seen do it. … I think we’ll be a little more prepared for the next game. They’re a good team. It wasn’t easy. We had to learn and adjust and I ask that of the guys every game: figure out what the other team is doing and we got to learn and adjust in games.”
Lewisburg made some halftime adjustments and were able to exploit the Midd-West defense more in the second half, accounting for more than a few opportunistic shots. Those opportunities didn’t account for any goals until the 67th minute when Eli Adams controlled a bouncing corner kick and, after his shot was deflected, Logan Moore controlled the loose ball and fired it in for the go-ahead goal.
Moore, a defensive centerback, was a big part of Lewisburg’s offense yesterday. He, as well as Ben Liscum, who missed all three of those Midd-West losses last season with an injury, helped control the midfield and their long passes were unbelievably accurate. Each has the ability to hit a sprinting teammate in stride 30 yards down the field, or find a friendly foot in a crowded scrum, and they can do it with either foot.
While other teams dread the kick and run, Lewisburg can embrace it with Moore and Liscum setting up teammates from all over the field.
“We can try to possess but Midd-West was pressuring and that can kind of relieved that,” Kettlewell said. “It just relieves the pressure and it can kind of stretch the game out and open up space for the other guys to operate.”
Midd-West 2 (OT)
L — Anthony Bhangdia (James Koconis), 27:34; MW — Nolan Stahl (Chase Strohecker), 23:54; L — Logan Moore (Eli Adams), 66:20; MW — Stefan Leitzel (UA), 71:52; L — Bhangdia (Anton Permyashkin), 84:33.
Shots: MW 9, L 13. Shots on goal: MW 5, L 8. Corners: MW 3, L 5. Saves: MW 5, L 5 (Anthony Burns).
Records: Lewisburg (6-0-1); Midd-West (6-1).