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Lewisburg’s Liscum named Boys Soccer Player of the Year

It was difficult for Ben Liscum to watch from the sidelines last year. Sitting on cold aluminum benches with equally cold aluminum crutches tucked underneath his arms wasn’t what he had in mind for his sophomore season. After a fantastic freshman season, the talented midfielder was looking forward to a brilliant encore.

Liscum watched from the darkened bench with his injured foot protected by a walking boot as his team struggled under the lights in a district semifinal loss to Midd-West.

This season, he came back healthy and ready to make up for lost time. Liscum totaled 24 goals and an area-high 35 assists as he led Lewisburg to a fifth district title in the last six years and a spot in the state semifinals for the fourth time in the last five years.

For his outstanding efforts, Liscum was named the 2019 Sun-Gazette Boys Soccer Player of the Year, beating out teammates Logan Moore and Anthony Bhangdia, as well as Williamsport’s Jimmy Pombor and Hughesville’s Justus Leighow for the honor.

The 2018 season was a down year by Lewisburg standards as it struggled to find the back of the net. Its seven losses were the most since 2002 and it failed to reach the district championship for the first time since 2013.

Liscum came back from a tough foot injury that cost him both the soccer and football seasons, and an opportunity to shoot way up in the program record books. If not for his absence, Lewisburg may have hoisted an 11th district championship plaque this millennium. But some things are worth waiting for and his teammates were thrilled to have him back on the field creating havoc.

“It makes it a lot easier. He controls the team. He’s the heart of the team and he gets us going,” teammate Anthony Bhangdia, who scored an area-high 42 goals, said.

Bhangdia was on the receiving end of some of Liscum’s best looks. The younger brother of past Lewisburg great soccer players, Liscum’s vision and accuracy are the best around. He has the ability to jump start an offense from 50 yards away with an accurate boot that hits a blazing teammate in stride and he’s as dangerous 50 yards away from the net as most players are 10 yards away from it.

Liscum’s presence has brought out the best in his teammates as players like Bhangdia and Alan Daniel (10 goals, 11 assists) had career years. It allowed other teammates to not have to play out of position and press too hard. They could relax and do what they do best as Liscum drew crowds and would find open teammates.

His leadership, both on and off the field, may be his best quality. Lewisburg’s first all-state selection since his older brother Nate in 2017, Liscum raised teammate’s level of play in both practices and games, holding older and younger players accountable.

This, as well as his tremendous skill, helped bring Lewisburg back to where it’s used to being, one of the best teams in the state, thanks to one of the best players in the state.

“I think besides his skill on the field, his leadership at practice and holding guys accountable and demanding things of them. It raises the level of play in practice, which raises all the other guys,” Lewisburg coach Ben Kettlewell said. “It’s been a pleasure to have him back and he’s always trying to learn and he’s teaching guys. I really enjoy having him.”

COACH OF THE YEAR

Ben Kettlewell, Lewisburg

(Others considered: Eric Yoder, Milton; Ian Scheller, Loyalsock)

Kettlewell shared coaching duties with Skip Kratzer for the better part of the last decade, but this year he led the Green Dragons without a co-head coach tag. Lewisburg had a nice bounce-back season from last year’s relatively down year as it went 22-1-1, won another district title and reached the state semifinals. The Green Dragons were in the top 5 of the state rankings for much of the season and even spent time at No. 1 despite playing in a tough HAC II and having a demanding non-conference schedule. Lewisburg is consistently one of the best teams in the area and the state and Kettlewell’s leadership is a major reason why.

FIRST TEAM ALL-STARS

FIRST TEAM

Anthony bhangdia, lewisburg, forward

The younger brother of two former Lewisburg greats, Bhangdia lived up to the family name and then some. The PHAC Division II first-teamer scored an area-high 42 goals and added 10 assists and was the perfect compliment up top for a team that runs a lot of its offense through the midfield. Bhangdia scored at least three goals in seven games and he scored twice in a 2-0 state quarterfinal win over Lansdale Catholic. The junior has drastically improved every year and his best may still be yet to come. Bhangdia’s 42 goals are also fifth all-time in a single season in boys soccer history in District 4, behind only Sayre’s Taylor Skerpon (51 in 2010), Lewisburg’s Joey Bhangdia (48 in 2015), Sullivan County’s Mike Bennett (47 in 1993) and Benton’s Billy Pasukinis (44 in 2007).

Brady Dowell, Loyalsock, FORWARD

It took some time for Dowell to bounce back from a broken leg, but once he was fully healthy, there was no stopping the speedy and skilled Lancer. He and running mate Connor Albaugh provided one of the best 1-2 punches around as Dowell knocked in 15 goals and added seven assists. It took some time for Dowell to become fully healthy but after the first month, his strength and speed were back as the first-team HAC III forward helped the Lancers rattle off eight straight wins to start the season.

Austin Lewis, Hughesville, FORWARD

Lewis leaves Hughesville as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 87 goals as he put an exclamation point on an amazing career with 23 goals and 11 assists as Hughesville won its most games since the late 1990s. He’s one of the fastest players around and is always in the right spot at the right time. Pair those attributes with an accurate and powerful right leg, and you get one of the area’s best goal-scorers the last four years. Lewis scored 10 goals in a three-game stretch and he scored 14 goals in Hughesville’s eight-game win streak that saw the Spartans overcome a 1-4 start.

Connor Albaugh, Loyalsock, forward

Albaugh provided a huge lift as teammate Brady Dowell made his way back from injury. The first-team HAC III forward can play both at forward and in the midfield and is equally dangerous in both positions. Albaugh totaled 21 goals and six assists and has the ability to score from anywhere on the field or, when playing back, could get teammates involved and help them earn quality scoring chances. Albaugh has improved every year since making the varsity squad and his immense talent is a major reason why the Lancers have gone 31-7-1 the last two seasons and have won two district playoff games, the program’s best stretch in a decade.

Jimmy Pombor, Williamsport, midfield

Though Williamsport had a relatively down year compared to its standards, Pombor’s play was still spectacular. Despite seeing constant pressure and drawing crowds, the sophomore still put up impressive numbers with 18 goals and 10 assists. Pombor’s ball-handling skills may be the best around and his passes are consistently accurate. Pombor had five multi-goal games this year, including two hat tricks. He also scored both goals in a 2-2 shootout loss to Wilkes-Barre in the opening round of districts.

“In my opinion, him and Ben (Liscum) are the two best players in all of PHAC and you never know what Jimmy can do at any moment,” Lewisburg coach Ben Kettlewell said.

Alex Hazzoum, Warrior Run, midfield

Hazzoum has turned into one of the area’s biggest scoring threats out of the midfield. While his older brother Tyrese caused havoc up top, Alex was all over the field scoring on his own and getting teammates involved. The junior and first-team PHAC Division II selection scored a team-best 25 goals to go with 10 assists. He’s one of the quickest players around and his ability to keep the ball close may be his best skill. Hazzoum scored a goal in 13 straight games after being held scoreless in the season opener and he scored a career-high five goals in an 8-0 win over Central Columbia.

Justus Leighow, Hughesville, midfield

Though his numbers maybe weren’t as flashy or gaudy as some of his teammates, it wasn’t hard to tell who made Hughesville tick. Leighow became just the second player in program history to be named all-state and it was very deserving. The senior first-team PHAC Division II selection posted 19 assists and seven goals but his ability to win 50/50 balls and jumpstart the offense from the midfield is his best ability. Leighow capped a fantastic career leading Hughesville to the postseason for the fourth straight year and he helped raise the program to heights not seen in more than 20 years.

Will Poirier, Wellsboro, midfield

Poirier was part of a talented junior class and the NTL Offensive Player of the Year could do it all for a strong Wellsboro team. Poirier posted a team-best 32 assists with 16 goals despite drawing crowds. He tallied at least one point in 16 games, posted multiple assists in 11 games, including five in an 8-2 win over Troy, and he had six multi-goal games.

Wes Engle, Williamsport, defender

Engle was the leader of a stingy Williamsport defense that had to help carry an offense that was trying to find its footing in the early goings of the season. Engle’s IQ might be his best asset and his ability to take the right angles made easy shots for opposing teams difficult. The PHAC Division I first-team defender was part of a defense that allowed just 15 goals on the season and he even knocked in two goals of his own.

Will Lowthert, Lewisburg, defender

Lowthert quietly had a great season and was the other half of a Lewisburg defensive centerback duo that gave opposing offenses fits. A first-team PHAC Division II defender, Lowthert was part of a defense that allowed just 17 goals all season despite making a run to the state semifinals and playing a demanding non-conference regular season schedule that included State College, Williamsport and Dallas. The senior helped keep goalkeeper Tony Burns clean as the team had 13 shutouts, including four in districts and states.

Logan Moore, Lewisburg, defender

There’s nothing Moore couldn’t do from his centerback position. He’s one of the best passers around, whether it be just a few feet or a booming through ball, the PHAC Division II first-teamer had as much offensive skill and touch as he did ability to shuffle through chaos in the back or making a goal-saving clear. Moore posted four goals and three assists but his value goes much further. His distributing out of the back up to the midfield started countless scoring opportunities and he had the smarts and the speed to chase down opposing attackers.

Sam Rosario, Loyalsock, defender

Rosario has been the key cog in one of the area’s stingiest defenses the last couple of years. The PHAC Division III first-team defender was a major contributor on a team that rose from irrelevancy to district contender in two years. Rosario’s speeds and smarts were unmatched as well as his ability to never be caught out of position. He could shut down his own man, cover up for teammate’s mishaps and win head balls out of the air on corner kicks.

Elliott Wannop, Williamsport, goalie

After bursting onto the scene last year as a sophomore, Wannop put together another great season and was one of Williamsport’s best players. The PHAC Division II second team selection has the length and reflexes to make difficult saves look easy. He made 110 saves, many of which should’ve been goals, and he posted a 0.89 goals against average with nine shutouts. Williamsport’s offense wasn’t as high-powered as past years but Wannop was able to keep the Millionaires in every game and he’ll continue to do that in his senior season.

SECOND TEAM ALL-STARS

• Angelo Silvagni, Montoursville, F

• Tyler Hendershot, Milton, F

• Nick Trevouledes, Hughesville, F

• Kaeden Mann, Wellsboro, F

• Alan Daniel, Lewisburg, M

• Hayden Swinehart, So. Wmspt., M

• Anton Permyashkin, Lewisburg, M

• Quaid Molino, So. Wmspt., M

• Luke Leach, Wellsboro, D

• Owen Lilley, Milton, D

• Collin Smith, Muncy, D

• Blake Sherwood, Hughesville, D

• Colton Loreman, Milton, GK

Honorable mention

(IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)

Eli Adams, D, Lewisburg; Logan Bailey, GK, Jersey Shore; Eric Baker, D, Milton; Matt Barone, M, Loyalsock; Alex Butzler, F, Jersey Shore; Jon Cramer, D, Williamsport; Brendan Geiger, M, Warrior Run; Colin Gorini, M, Montoursville; Joe Grab, M, Wellsboro; Gabe Harvey, M, South Williamsport; Tyrese Hazzoum, F, Warrior Run; Alex Heiser, F, Loyalsock; Tyler Hendershot, M, Milton; Nathan Higley, M, Sullivan County; Carter Hoover, M, Lewisburg; Keegan Jenkins, GK, Warrior Run; Owen Kaar, M, Williamsport; James Koconis, F, Lewisburg; Carter Lilley, F, Milton; Nathan McCormack, D, Warrior Run; Kaleb McKeon, M, Williamsport; Parker Miller, F, Jersey Shore; Yasler Montero-Salas, F, Sullivan County; Trace Neary, F, Sullivan County; Ian Plankenhorn, D, Montoursville; Luke Pondo, M, Wellsboro; Alex Reed, D, Loyalsock; Eli Reibson, M, Jersey Shore; Zach Rowland, D, Wellsboro; Curtis Sauers, M, South Williamsport; Alex Schweitzer, D, Sullivan County; Zach Singer, D, Wellsboro; Caleb Snyder, D, South Williamsport; Owen Yoder, F, Milton

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