Athens edges Jersey Shore in overtime; earns return trip to Class AAA title game.

By: Tim Birney | Valley Sports Report | October 31, 2017 | Photo courtesy Tim Birney

Athens edges Jersey Shore in overtime; earns return trip to Class AAA title game.

HEPBURNVILLE — Sophomore David Scheftic scored the goal that forced overtime, then slammed the game-winner into the back of the net in the extra period to lift Athens to a 3-2 win over Jersey Shore here Thursday night in the semifinals of the District 4, Class AAA boys soccer playoffs at the Balls Mills Soccer Complex.

By advancing to the Class AAA finals, the Wildcats, now 16-1-2, have an opportunity to defend the program’s first-ever District 4 title. (They will play MIfflinburg Wednesday at a site and time to be announced.)

“It’s exciting,” said Athens coach Jake Lezak. “Early in the season, we saw ourselves back here. We looked at our team, and what was coming back around District 4, and thought we would get back here.

“We set ourselves up with our non-league play, which was something we knew we needed to do,” added Lezak.

Lezak acknowledged Monday’s game was one Athens has lost in the past.

“The first game is kind of like the hump game, you have to get past it.

“Last year’s success definitely helps,” he said. “Having that core group of guys back that were on the field, they know what it takes.

“The confidence and the experience played a big part in tonight,” said Lezak. “The more you continue to make the postseason, and the more you play in close games, you’re going to seek and find success.”

Trailing 2-1 with 27:15 left in regulation, Athens sophomore Luke Arnold lined up for a direct kick from about 45 yards out, following a tripping call against Jersey Shore.

Arnold looped the ball into the box, and Sheftic, with Bulldog keeper Calvin Lesser moving toward the ball, got a foot on it while it was about three feet off the ground, and popped it over Lesser’s head, and just under the crossbar to tie the game.

Athens controlled the action over the remaining 27 minutes, and had several scoring chances.

With 12 1/2 minutes remaining, Arnold unleashed a rocket shot from 25 yards out, but Lesser was able to re-direct it over the crossbar.

Two minutes later, Arnold had a direct kick from about 35 yards out on the right wing. He crossed the ball to the far post, where Athens senior Gavin Stein, and Lesser met at the ball simultaneously. The ball ended up loose in the box, but the Bulldog defense was able to clear it.

Jersey Shore’s best scoring opportunity — and only shot-on-goal in the second half — came with 8:20 remaining in regulation. Senior Braden Priester punched a looping cross into the air, but back into the box, where Jersey Shore’s Jacob Hoag volleyed a shot toward an empty net. Athens defender Shawn Shaw sacrificed his body for the save, and sophomore Doug Vosburg cleared the ball from the box.

With 5 minutes remaining, senior Ethan Lane led Stein with a perfectly-placed pass down the wing. Stein got a half-step on the defender, but his shot found the side of the net.

In the first minute of overtime, Lane slid a nice pass in front of senior Brad Cardona on the wing. Cardona hit a hard shot past Lesser, but it rolled harmlessly past the far post and out-of-bounds.

With 8:39 left in overtime, Arnold found Sheftic open, and he delivered the game-winner.

“Luke dribbled down the line, saw me in the middle and played it in, and I finished it,” said Sheftic.

The Wildcat sophomore agreed it was the “biggest moment” of his career.

“It’s exciting,” said Scheftic. “Coach said one of us needed to be a leader, and step up. I guess I was the one who stepped up, but it was all because of my teammates.”

So what was Scheftic thinking with the ball on his foot and a return trip to the District 4 title game on the line?

“Don’t miss,” he said.

“David (Scheftic) has a tremendous amount of skill, and he’s a very smart player,” said Lezak. “Coming up out of the middle is big, and it’s what we look for him to do. He is the type of player who loves to make the late run forward. He sees the field well, and he reads the field well.”

“Watching him play, he hunts things around the 18,” added Lezak. He waits and watches for those opportunities, and he’s very good at it.”

Jersey Shore only had five shots-on-goal in the game, including four in the first half, but led 2-1 at the intermission.

“We knew Jersey Shore was going to come out and play us tough, and they did,” said Lezak. “They capitalized on the mistakes we made in the back.

“We didn’t play the ball out of the air like we needed to, and it created opportunities.

“The first goal … the play started at the other end of the field on the right side,” said Lezak. “We didn’t take care of it there, and it ended up down the field on our left side, and they crossed it in.

“The second goal was just poor tackling, and lazy defense,” noted Lezak. “(Hunter Bierly) made a great shot, but if we take care of business, and don’t make the foul, they don’t get that chance.

“We know not giving up those silly fouls is something we have to work on,” he added.

Jersey Shore’s first goal came with 30:11 left in the first half, when Bierly rocketed a volley off a cross from Niall Laniss into the back of the net.

About 12 1/2 minutes later, the Wildcats knotted the score when Ethan Lane weaved his way through four defenders, and fired a shot that caromed off the post. Stein was there to clean up the rebound, and drove a shot into the back of the net.

The goal was a direct result of Stein shifting from the midfield to the wing.

Saturday morning in our training, we decided to take a look at Gavin (Stein) out on the wing,” said Lezak. “He hasn’t played there since his sophomore year on JVs maybe …. we bumped him out after the first 12, just to get his ability and his athleticism down the line, and he looked really good.”

With 3:23 remaining in the first half, Bierly bent a direct kick from 35 yards out over the outstretched arms of Athens keeper Braden Priester to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead.

Lezak said the win was a total team effort.

“It’s not just the guys on the field, it’s everybody,” he said. “If we don’t have good guys to help us out in training, we’re not going to get better.”

Athens had a 20-5 advantage in shots-on-goal and a 6-1 edge in corner kicks.

Lesser had 16 saves for Jersey Shore, and Priester recorded three for Athens.


About the Author

Tim Birney Author Bio
Tim Birney

Tim Birney is the founder/owner of Valley Sports Report, which covers high school and youth sports in the Sayre and Athens, PA and Waverly and Tioga, NY school districts.

Birney, a 1988 graduate of Utica College of Syracuse University, spent nearly 20 years as a Sports Writer at the Daily Review and Evening/Morning Times.

He founded Valley Sports Report in August of 2009.