Green Dragons’ seniors reach goal
HERSHEY — After a group photo with all of Lewisburg’s players and coaches was taken, the seniors gathered around for a few photos with the PIAA Class AA championship trophy and a five-pound Hershey’s bar.
It was a moment those eight seniors had been dreaming about since they were in eighth grade. That’s when they watched the 2016 Lewisburg team win the second of consecutive state championships. It’s when they knew they wanted to get to Hershey themselves and hoist the championship trophy.
Not only did Lewisburg’s seniors get to Hershey, they made winning a state title look easy.
Lewisburg pummeled Deer Lakes, 6-0, in the PIAA Class AA championship game at Hersheypark Stadium to win the program’s fourth state title and third since 2015.
“We wanted the same thing and it feels amazing. Those are big shoes to fill,” Lewisburg senior Jack Dieffenderfer said about joining Lewisburg’s past state champions (2000, 2015, 2016).
This senior class finished their careers with a 78-10-2 record and won three District 4 Class AA championships. In their four years, only once did they not reach the state semifinals (2018). Last season, Lewisburg lost a tough game against New Hope-Solebury in the state semifinals in Hamburg on a freezing cold night. It helped add motivation to get to Hershey this year and the seniors earned redemption with a state title.
For Penn State-bound Ben Liscum, it was prior to this year’s state semifinal game against Oley Valley that he and his fellow seniors knew what they were on the brink of doing if they could win. And once they got to Hershey on Saturday, the seniors knew they had a chance to carve their own legacy and join a list of incredible teams in Lewisburg history.
“That semifinal game (against Oley Valley) we can go from a good team to a great team and (Saturday) we said we can go from great to legendary,” Liscum said. “We can be a legendary team people talk about for decades to come. We’re trailblazers on our own.”
Lewisburg’s seniors helped set the tone against Deer Lakes.
Dieffenderfer scored twice in the first half to help Lewisburg go ahead 3-0 before halftime. In the second half, it was fellow senior James Koconis who put in two goals. Liscum added a goal and assist and Anthony Bhangdia assisted on the team’s opening goal.
After leading 1-0, Dieffenderfer scored his two goals in just over a 3 1/2 minutes to quickly make it a 3-0 lead. Koconis put Lewisburg ahead 4-0 with 19 minutes, 7 seconds to play.
The Green Dragons proceeded to showcase how dangerous their offense was by scoring two goals in 59 seconds to quickly make it a 6-0 game.
“We always want more. As much as 2-0 sounds good, that’s a very dangerous score in soccer and we kept working hard,” Dieffenderfer said. “At the end of the day, we just kept getting more and more.”
“We talk about we’re winning at half, it’s nil-nil first of all, but we got to withstand that first 10 minutes because if Deer Lakes comes out and puts one in, that’s a scare,” Liscum said. “So we got to dominate that first 10 and make sure we’re in control, to put that fourth one in. I think that was a dagger.”
The Green Dragons out-shot Deer Lakes, 13-1, and limited any chances Deer Lakes tried to counter with. The Lancers’ only shot on goal came late in the second half and didn’t get the ball into Lewisburg’s defensive third often.
And it wasn’t just the seniors helping boost the offense against Deer Lakes. Defensively, Alan Daniel played outstanding by shutting down WPIAL Player of the Year Michael Sullivan. The Deer Lakes standout didn’t record a single shot.
“He shut down (Sullivan) and (Sullivan) is a brilliant player,” Liscum said. “I think the world of (Sullivan), but Alan Daniel was a beast.”
Lewisburg added to its reputation as a state power by winning the program’s fourth state championship Saturday, and now the senior class knows they’ll be talked about for years to come.
“I knew walking into the stadium that Lewisburg, if we get to state finals, we don’t lose. We’re going to do whatever it takes to win,” Liscum said.
And the seniors did just that in Hershey.
Lewisburg 6, Deer Lakes 0
(PIAA CLASS AA CHAMPIONSHIP)
L–Philip Permyashkin (Anthony Bhangdia), 27:13. L–Jack Dieffenderfer (Ben Liscum), 7:56. L–Dieffenderfer (James Koconis), 4:20. L–Koconis (Nick Passaniti), 19:07. L–Liscum, 3:35. L–Koconis, 2:36.
Shots: DL 1, L 13. Corners: DL 4, L 7. Saves: DL 5 (Nick Braun), L 1 (Tony Burns).
Records: Deer Lakes (17-2), Lewisburg (22-0).