Success a family affair at Lewisburg
If you were to glance at just the last names on Lewisburg’s roster, you’d think for a second you were possibly looking at the roster from the 2015 undefeated PIAA Class AA championship team.
Bhangdia. Liscum. Permyashkin. Dieffenderfer. The names are the same, but the people are different.
Those families all had success in 2015 as part of Lewisburg’s first state championship team since 2000. But it’s the younger siblings of those 2015 players this year who want to make a name for themselves.
“There’s a lot of little brothers from that team (2015) and if they weren’t little brothers, their friends had bigger brothers and they watched it,” Lewisburg coach Ben Kettlewell said after Tuesday’s 2-0 state semifinal win against Oley Valley. “They’ve kind of been knocking on that door a little bit. It feels good. I get texts from the old players and those sort of things. They’re rooting for them. They want this program to do well and it feels great.”
Five years ago, Anthony Bhangdia, Ben Liscum and Jack Dieffenderfer were just eighth- graders and Philip Permyashkin was in seventh grade as they watched their older brothers make history with the program’s only undefeated season.
It was motivation to not only succeed and join them as state champions, but keep the standard at Lewisburg at an extremely high level. It isn’t enough to get to states. The expectation is to win it all in Hershey.
“We’ve talked a lot about the word legacy recently and what it means to us. We believe this year we have a great team made up of some really good players, but we know we can one up that. We know that come (today), we cannot only be great, but we can become legendary,” Liscum said.
Watching Lewisburg hoist a state championship trophy in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 has motivated this group of players to leave their own mark. Last year’s senior class had the final remnants of the 2016 title team. Nobody on this year’s team has played in a state final at Hersheypark Stadium before.
“Playing in a state final for Lewisburg has been a dream of ours for some time. It means everything to finally get this chance, and we are confident in our ability to find a way and get a result,” Liscum said. “Above all else, we are going to enjoy the moment and represent Lewisburg with nothing but pride and honor.”
Only one team remains as a roadblock to Lewisburg’s fourth state championship. District 7 champion Deer Lakes is the Green Dragons’ opponent in today’s Class AA final at 1:30 p.m.
Deer Lakes defeated District 9 champion Karns City, 2-0, and blanked District 10 champion Fairview, 3-0, to advance to the state championship game.
Deer Lakes defeated South Park in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals, cruised past Mount Pleasant in the semifinals (7-1) and edged Shady Side Academy in the championship game, 2-1.
The Lancers have just one loss on their resume this year which came early in the regular season to Shady Side Academy in a narrow 2-1 contest. Since then, the Lancers have rattled off 15 consecutive wins. Deer Lakes also has outscored its opponents, 87-9, and Shady Side is the only team to score more than one goal against the Lancers.
Lewisburg is used to playing teams with solid offenses and, so far, the Green Dragons’ defensive unit has been outstanding. The Green Dragons have yielded just six goals all season. Lewisburg has also posted four consecutive shutouts since Warrior Run scored a goal against it in the District 4 Class AA semifinals.
The Green Dragons also have a stalwart goalie in Tony Burns, who has shown a penchant for making athletic saves and blocking shots near the crossbar.
Numerous members of Deer Lakes received WPIAL honors this year, including All-WPIAL Player of the Year Michael Sullivan. The team also had Colton Spence and Devin Murray receive honors.
“Herb Brooks said it best, ‘Great moments are born from great opportunity.’ What we’ve got (today) is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave our mark on such a historic program,” Liscum said.
The Green Dragons get that chance this afternoon in Hershey.