HAWLEY — Paupack's boys varsity soccer squad put out the proverbial welcome mat for North Pocono Wednesday night on the shores of The Big Lake.
Before they took to the turf, players from the Wallenpaupack Area Youth Soccer League gathered on the field and were escorted by both Buckhorns and Trojans starters for a pre-game line-up as the National Anthem was sung and the sun set over the water.
North Pocono Coach Dave Davis admires Paupack Coach Scott Bonagura's efforts to include the young players in the High School program.
"Both of our teams stress Success with Honor," Davis said. "Those ideals show when our two teams come together to compete."
On the Pitch
Coming into the game, North Pocono had a 2-2-2 record with a tie against Honesdale and a loss to Western Wayne in league match-ups.
The Buckhorns lost 3-1 versus Delaware Valley two days earlier.
Davis was anticipating a good game and seemed excited about his teams' participation with the Youth Night ceremony as well. A number of North Pocono parents and students were had also made the trip to Hawley to watch the game and cheer on the team.
"We travel well," Davis said. "It's not uncommon for us to have fans at the away games. It's nice to have that kind of support."
Bonagura pumped his team up early before collaborating with the Youth League coaches and parents to get the kids all set for the ceremony.
First half action saw the Bucks keep the ball in the Trojans' zone with consistency. Wide shots over or to the side of the goal failed to yield any points for Paupack, but they kept the North Pocono keeper, Riley Lougee and his defensemen busy.
No score midway through the half, but the Trojans put pressure on the Buckhorns keeping goalie Thomas McLain occupied in front of the net, playing the ball often and making some excellent saves.
With 4:31 left in the half, Danny Skibber headed the ball into the net off a throw-in from Shane Conners putting Paupack up 1-0. The lead wouldn't last long, however. An infraction on the Buckhorns' part gave the Trojans an indirect kick opportunity with only 1:25 left in the half.
A touch-of-the-ball kick by Jesse Buxton went to Russ Lang, who promptly sent the ball into the goal, tying the score as halftime approached.
Down the Stretch
While the teams seemed to be evenly matched on the field, the coaching styles of Davis and Bonagura couldn't be more different.
Clad in athletic wear and pacing in front of his bench, Bonagura manages his players frequently and offers analysis to his sitting players as to what is going taking place on the field. Davis is wearing a shirt and tie and stands at the end of his bench. He is reserved and fixated on the game.
Page 2 of 3 - If cast for characters in "Top Gun" Bonagura would play Maverick and Davis might be Iceman. In the halftime huddle both are giving their players feedback about the other team's strategy and how they should go about trying to mount an offence.
Both teams showed an incredible amount of hustle in the second half, notably Buckhorns' forward Marcus Sabrowski who seemingly was everywhere.
He's a bit of a joker off-field and despite the look of frustration on his face at his team's inability to tally another goal so far, there's a glint in his eye that suggests he'd rather be nowhere else at that moment either.
Similarly Trojans' Matt Lees was playing hard and marking Paupack players throughout the period. Darting back and forth he kept setting up plays only to have them meet the same fate as Paupack's drives.
Moving into overtime, Paupack kept pressure on the Trojans with a series of shots only to see them go wide.
While the Buckhorns were on the offensive for most of the overtime period, North Pocono would hold fast and fend off all Paupack scoring attempts, sending the game into a second OT.
The clock ticked past 9:00 p.m. Many of the families that had come to the Youth Soccer Ceremony and stayed to see the high school game had departed; after all, there was class in the morning.
The Bucks were determined to score and the kickoff went straight towards the Trojan net only to be stopped by Lougee. Lees and Andrew Harnan supported a counter-offensive for North Pocono, but another goal was not in the cards for either team.
The whistle blew and the match finally ended in a 1-1 draw.
Afterward, Davis admits the Trojans were outshot and that Paupack controlled the pace through most of the game.
However, his team never backed down.
"Our bend-but-don'-break mentality kept us in the game," Davis tells, "and our defense was up to the task throughout the course of the match."
Bonagura echoes Davis' statement.
"We put a lot of pressure on their defense but unfortunately could not break through for the winning goal," he said. "I thought North Pocono had a good hard defense that was difficult to break down. I was really pleased the way my team played and responded to a tough loss on Monday to Delaware Valley."
The Bucks would go on to shutout Honesdale, 2-0. Skibber scored quickly in the first half and Conners followed shortly after with a goal on a penalty kick.
It was another physical contest and unfortunately Joey Budnovitch left the game with a broken collar bone. The Bucks again dominated the game and put up a solid defense.
Page 3 of 3 - Liam Cunningham was in goal for Paupack and stopped six shots, allowing none, closing the week with a 1-1-1 record for the varsity Boys.