Wallenpaupack Area's boys soccer team is headed for the Class AAA semfinals
HAWLEY — Friday Night Lights took on a different meaning last week.
Wallenpaupack Area's boys soccer squad squared off against Pittston Area in the District Two Class AAA quarterfinal round on the shores of The Big Lake.
The fifth-seeded Buckhorns last faced the fourth-ranked Patriots in a tournament during the 2011 season.
"When we played them last year, we won," Coach Scott Bonagura said.
"We're expecting them to play an aggressive game but we have a healthy team and have been playing well. We beat Lakeland in a post-season scrimmage and have been preparing for the playoffs. Things look good."
To combat the long kicking and deep passing style common with WVC teams, the Bucks modified their line-up.
Coach Bonagura went with a defense-heavy backfield, in anticipation of picking off Pat passes.
This extra defense allowed Paupack to mark opposing payers with more ease and gave a little more insurance for keeper Thomas McLain.
Ironically, sacrificing an additional attacker allowed the Buckhorns to land the first strike just 28 seconds into the match when Casey Weis drove down the center off a pass from Shayne McCormack and scored, stunning the Patriots.
Still in shock from the early goal, the Bucks capitalized on the opportunity as Danny Skibber shook the net with a long shot taken from well outside the penalty box. The unassisted goal put Wallenpaupack up 2-0 and made put the Patriots into a pit that would be hard to climb out of.
Play would move back-and-forth for much of the remainder of the period with no side gaining a clear advantage. While Paupack kept the ball in the Pittston Area zone a good deal of the time, the Pats managed a few offensive strikes as well, keeping McLain and the defense busy on occasion.
A strange occurrence late in the half gave Pittston Area a goal when a shot was deflected off a Paupack defender and slipped past McLain.
The "own goal" went unanswered before the buzzer sounded on the first half, but the Bucks were up 2-1 and still feeling good.
The second period would start off much like the previous one.
Just 4:40 in, Weis intercepted a kick and went to the net for his second goal of the night.
The Bucks didn't let up and kept pressure on Pittston by tying up the midfield and subbing often to keep fresh legs on the field.
Midway through the half, Skibber struck a second time as well, taking a pass from Joey Budnovitch that he sent between the posts. This staked the Bucks to a 4-1 advantage.
The next 20 minutes largely became a game of keep-away-from-the-Patriots.
Paupack continued to take advantage of its big lead by swapping players in-and-out while Pittston Area kept relying on now-tired veterans hoping to take advantage of their younger opponents.
However, even non-starting Bucks plagued the Patriots with a few shots on goal and aggressive attacking.
Finally, it looked like Pittston would rally with just under two minutes left in the game, but McLain stayed solid in the goal blocking first, a kick; then a header; and then finally an over-the-back shot all taken within a few seconds.
While the Patriots played well, their big boots and long passes never seemed to land where they intended and they were hassled often by Leo Chichinsky, Marcus Sabrowski, and Mike Naughton in the Bucks' backfield.
As the horn sounded, cheers went up from the stands and the Buckhorns walked away with a 4-1 victory and a date with Delaware Valley in the District Semifinals.
WAHS: Weis/McCormack (39:32)
WAHS: Skibber/Unassisted (39:20)
PAHS: Own Goal (5:22)
WAHS: Weis/Unassisted (35:20)
WAHS: Skibber/Budnovitch (21:45)