Mifflinburg edges Athens, 1-0, in Class AAA title game.

By: Tim Birney | Valley Sports Report | November 2, 2017 | Photo courtesy Tim Birney

 
Mifflinburg edges Athens, 1-0, in Class AAA title game.
 

LOYALSOCK TOWNSHIP — Mifflinburg pressured the Athens goal for the majority of the contest, and finally dented the Wildcat defenses after nearly 75 minutes of scoreless soccer for a 1-0 win here Wednesday night in the District 4, Class AAA championship game.

Culminating a four-minute stretch in which the ball was perilously close to the Athens goal, Gabe DeFacis re-directed a pass from Elijah Yoder into the net as Athens keeper Braden Priester was coming out to make a play on it with 5:12 remaining in the game.

“(Mifflinburg) has a lot of talented players that can handle the ball very well, and move well off the ball,” said Athens coach Jake Lezak. “It’s pretty evident with that large group of seniors on the field starting, they knew where the other guy was gonna be.

"It was bend-don’t-break in the back line, and they got one in,” he noted.

“They were the better team,” added Lezak. “They played that way through the majority of the game.”

MIfflinburg had an 11-3 advantage in shots-on-goal, and a 6-4 edge in corner kicks.

Miff took away Athens’ patented short passing game, and drastically limited its scoring opportunities.

“They settled in off the ball … their defensive tactics frustrated us,” said Lezak.

“We tried to get guys going down in behind the defense, but they dropped back in a lot deeper than what we’ve seen most of the season,” he noted. “A lot of teams play us up, and give us a lot of space, (Mifflinburg) didn’t do that.

“Their goals-against average shows it, they defend very well,” added Lezak.

Senior keeper Braden Priester had 10 saves for the Wildcats, and was “outstanding throughout the game,” said Lezak.

“He really stepped it up,” he said. “He made some great saves, and he played out off his line.

“He played the way he’s capable of,” said Lezak. “We saw that kind of play out of him at times during the regular season, but a lot of it in the postseason last year.”

Mifflinburg had five shots in the first half, but one came with Priester about 15 yards out of the net after a collision. Yoder collected a loose ball near the top of the 18, and fired a shot at what looked to be an open net, but sophomore defender David Scheftic was dropping back to help, and was able to head the ball over the crossbar.

“That was great,” said Lezak. “That’s his experience coming through, he’s a smart player. He knew when the goal keeper comes out like that you have to drop back.”

The Wildcats didn’t have many scoring chances, but the ones they did generate were near-misses.

Their first shot of the game came with 1 minute left in the first half when junior Willey Tilley ripped a shot from about 15 yards out that Miff keeper Thomas Lichtel was able deflect wide at the post.

With 28 minutes left in the game, Tilley pushed a ball out in front of sophomore Luke Arnold on the right wing. Arnold dribbled closer, and fired a shot from 25 yards out that Lichtel appeared to get a piece of at the post, but no corner kick was awarded.

Midway through the second half, senior Ethan Lane came up with a steal near midfield, dribbled past a pair of defenders on the edge of the box, then fired a shot toward the far post, but Lichtel once again got a piece of it, and pushed it wide.

The Wildcats wrap up the season at 16-2-2.

“The boys fought hard all the way through,” said Lezak. “I’m proud of the boys, and the way they played tonight, and the whole season.

“It was a great season,” he noted. “We had a tough non-league schedule, and a couple tough games with Wellsboro, and that helped us get here.”

The Wildcats will be hit hard by graduation.

“We graduate a lot of seniors,” said Lezak. “We graduate a lot of great players, and a lot of personalities. The different things these boys bring to the team is really special — the way they train, their enthusiasm … some of them are all heart.

“It’s always tough to let go of a group, and this year’s is another tough one.

“They have a lot to be proud of — on and off the field,” added Lezak. “They’re really going to do well in the future.”

In spite of the graduation losses, Lezak acknowledges the cupboard will be far from bare in 2018.

“That’s one of the things we strive for,” he said. “We push the guys in the offseason, and throughout the season, trying to create as much depth as we can.

“We have a couple years of very talented, and experienced players coming back,” noted Lezak. “It’s a small, but talented senior class next year.

“We really look forward to putting together next year’s season, and what it has to offer,” added Lezak. “It’s going to be good.”

 

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, N.Y. 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.