Buckhorns are hoping for a deep playoff run this fall

The Wallenpaupack Area boys varsity soccer team kicked off the season with a trio of games over a five-day period.

At home on August 30 they welcomed Moravian Academy and the following day hosted Hamburg in non-league matches.

The squad then trekked to the Electric City where they faced Scranton Prep on September 3, officially commencing Lackawanna League action.

Pre-Season Split

The Buckhorns got off to a rough start against Moravian. The visiting Lions went up 4-0 in the opening 40 minutes.

“We were trying out a new system,” said Head Coach Scott Bonagura. “We came back after halftime and held them to just one goal, generated some offensive opportunities for ourselves, but just couldn’t get it in their net.”

The 5-0 loss wasn’t all for naught. The next day against Hamburg, they managed to turn things around.

Just under 10 minutes into the game, Izaiah Santiago passed to Luke Kiesendahl, who in turn, put it between the pipes to give Paupack the 1-0 lead.

The Purple & White would strike again in the 67th minute when Ashton Struck scored off a pass from Konrad Zaba-Poplawski.

Anthony Ioppolo made four saves for the Buckhorns and gave them their first clean sheet of the year.

Coach Bonagura credited the lesson learned against Moravian as the reason for the win.

“We put into practice against Hamburg what we found out the day before,” he said. “Our kids played well and put up a strong pressing offense.”

Day One

Looking to capitalize on the win, Wallenpaupack jumped on the bus to Steamtown and embarked on their 2019 LSL campaign against Scranton Prep. The partly cloudy afternoon made for perfect playing weather but neither the Buckhorns nor the Cavaliers would have an easy opening day.

Paupack kept the ball on Prep’s side of the field largely through the first 40 minutes. Although sluggish at first, they picked up the tempo heading towards the half. The Cavaliers had some solid opportunities early in the match but were unable to capitalize through a combination of solid defense and good keeping on the part of Ioppolo.

The second half was largely a mirror image of the first. Prep made a string of deep runs and held Paupack at bay. Finally, the Buckhorns began to pick up speed as the clock approached full time.

Still though, there was no score. Nil-nil at the horn meant overtime.

Ten minutes came and went. The Buckhorns made a good push, hitting the post once and sending another kick over the box, but there was nothing but “love” on the scoreboard now 90 minutes into the spectacle.

Things were still scoreless through the first eight minutes of the second OT session.

With two minutes to play, Prep challenged.

First, a leaping save by Ioppolo then, seconds later, he dove to stop another shot. The Buckhorns went on the offensive, but they too were shut down and the game ended with no victor and exhausted players on both sides.

“We always struggle when we play on the first day of school,” Bonagura said. “The sun and the breeze today really affected both teams. Whatever team was playing into the sun and against the breeze struggled.

“Anthony did a fantastic job in goal for us but Prep’s defense is excellent too.”

Over & Out

Joining the Buckhorns late in the pre-season, after a three-year hiatus from the pitch is senior Dieter Burckes.

He was a strong player at the junior high level and had significant potential, but his love of running drew him to cross-country during his freshman year. Missing the pitch, he made his way back this season.

While he’s still making up for lost time, the Paupack coaches feel he can handle the steep learning curve and make contributions to the cause.

Typically, facing Scranton Prep and Abington Heights, in the first week would be a solid test for any LSL team. That’s simply not the case this autumn.

After batting twice to 1-0 victories over Valley View at the 9th Annual Jamie Kotula Kick-Off Classic, North Pocono emerged as the tourney champion.

Both the Cougars and Warriors fielded strong squads, and add Delaware Valley into the mix too, and Bonagura feels it’s anyone’s league.

“The league is very competitive this year,” he said. “I don’t think there will be an easy game for anyone.”