October 17, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens had a big advantage in time of possession, and shots-on-goal, but Troy took advantage of its chances in a 2-1 win — handing the eight-time defending league champs its first league loss at home in nine years — here Saturday morning in NTL girls soccer action.

The last time Athens lost at home was a 3-2 setback to Troy on Oct. 5, 2011.

The Lady Wildcats outshot Troy 19-5 in the loss.

“That seems to be a theme we’ve had throughout the season,” said Athens interim coach Nick Soprano. “We get our chances, the girls possess and bring it up well, from defense to offense, but in the attacking-third, we can’t seem to put it in the net.

“Give credit to Troy, they took advantage of their opportunities, even though they had fewer than we did,” added Soprano.

The Lady Trojans were playing in their first game since Sept. 26, and longtime coach Wayne Pratt was impressed by his team’s performance.

“We always bring our best … every team brings their best against, let’s face it a dynasty. Athens is an awesome program, they are the team to beat every year.

“To be off for as long as we’ve been off, and for them to come together this quickly says a lot about these ladies,” said Pratt.

“There were two great teams on the field today. I can’t say enough about the Wildcats,” added Pratt.

Troy spent much of the game in its defensive end, but scored twice on quick counter-attacks.

“We prepared for that. We talked to the girls about (Troy’s) usual game plan is,” said Soprano. “As soon as they get the ball on their foot, they’re looking down the line, over our back line to pepper it.

“Most of the time we defended it well, a couple of times we didn’t,” added Soprano.

“We had four days to prepare for this game,” said Pratt. “The ladies worked on possession, and our forwards have worked on being more accurate with their touches, as well as their shots and it paid off today.”

“We showed up, and we put it all together today,” he added.

The Lady Wildcats controlled the opening minutes of the game, but in the 8th minute Troy hit on a quick counter-attack, and Makenna Matthews scored from close range to give the Lady Trojans an early 1-0 lead.

About 4 1/2 minutes later, Athens senior Emma Roe slid a centering pass to sophomore Ally Thoman, but her shot sailed over the crossbar. It proved to be a familiar sight on the day.

With 19 minutes remaining, senior Hannah Blackman made a run down the far sideline, and centered it to Roe, but her shot sailed high.

With 12 minutes left in the half, Troy keeper Olivia Tate barely beat Roe to a through-ball. Tate was shaken up in the resulting collision, but remained in the game.

Less than two minutes later, Roe’s shot deflected off a Troy defender, and freshman Norah Reed collected the rebound and fired off a shot, but Tate was on the spot for the save.

About 70 seconds into the second half, Roe placed a beautiful pass into the box, where senior Hannah Blackman controlled it, but her quick shot sailed high.

Less than two minutes later, Troy’s Nicole McClellan drove down the sideline, touched a pass to Matthews in the center of the box. Matthews quickly touched it to Addison Parker at the far post, and she drove a shot into the back of the net from about 10 yards out to make it 2-0 with 37 minutes remaining in the contest.

Pratt said the quick goal was something his team discussed at halftime.

“We were gassed at the end of the first half … three weeks off will do that to you,” laughed Pratt. “This is kind of like a second season for us.

“We talked about it at halftime,” he noted. “We told the ladies we needed to get another goal because we knew a 1-0 lead would not hold up against a great team like Athens.

“We came out (of halftime), and we executed,” added Pratt. “We got that early goal and it energized us a bit.”

The Lady Trojans had a couple more scoring opportunities in the second half, but the majority of action was in Troy’s defensive end, with the Lady Wildcats peppering shots on the net. Tate made several good saves, and her defense use their bodies to shield her from several more shots.

With 31 minutes remaining, Thoman and Roe executed a perfect give-and-go, but Thoman’s shot from 20 yards out whizzed just over the crossbar.

About 6 1/2 minutes later, Thoman centered a ball into the box, and Blackman ht a hard volley right at Tate, who handled it cleanly.

With 7:45 remaining, Roe fed Walker with a pass about 15 yards from the goal mouth, but Walker’s shot skimmed the top of the cross bar.

With 3:21 remaining, the Lady Wildcats finally penetrated Troy’s defense when Roe slid a pass between two defenders to Thoman in the box. In a 1-on-1 with the keeper, Thoman drove a shot into the back of the net to trim the deficit to 2-1.

The Wildcats got off a couple more shots in the final minutes, including one by Blackman that sailed harmlessly over the crossbar as the final horn sounded.

“We played hard at the end,” said Soprano. “I think if we would have competed a little bit more in the first half, we would have been able to put a couple away and get this game where we wanted it.

“I thought the second half, especially the last 20 minutes, we showed what Athens soccer is all about,” he added. “We just need to put together a complete game to compete with them.”

Tate had 11 saves in net for Troy, while sophomore Abby Champion had five for Athens.

Troy improves to 5-1 on the season, while Athens falls to 8-2-1. Wellsboro sits in first place at 8-1-1.

Athens travels to Troy Monday. Troy travels to Towanda Monday.

“We get them again Tuesday at their house,” said Soprano. “We have a few things to sharpen, but I think with the way we ended the game, the girls know we can compete against them, and win.”

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October 17, 2020 Chris Manning

ROME — Athens sophomore Emma Bronson led for most of the girls’ race of the NTL Coaches’ Invitational Saturday.  She used that advantage to pull away for the individual title, winning in 21:31.90.

“It feels really good,” said Bronson. “It was my goal going into the season, to be able to win this and the season went pretty well … I got second a couple of times. So I knew this is the race that I had to beat those girls.”

The Wildcat boys took second to Wyalusing by 1-point, 46-47, but earned the NTL Large School title, their second in a row. Due to teams missing meets because of Covid-19, team titles were decided at the NTL Invitational.

The Lady Wildcats took fourth overall with 121 points while Wyalusing (42), Troy (52) and Wellsboro (78) were the top three teams.

Bronson won by 20 seconds, with Wyalusing’s Catherine Brown (21:51.60) taking second, but she wasn’t taking anything for granted.

“I knew that the really good runners can close really quick, so I tried to keep pushing as long I can and beat them to the finish,” remarked Bronson.

Sayre’s Carrie Claypool (22:34.30) was sevent,h while fellow Wildcat Thea Bentley (22:41.60) took eighth.

Rounding out the Athens scorers were Cailyn Conklin (25:26.70) in 26th, Macaria Benjamin (27:46.80) in 44th, and Abby Prickitt (31:09.40) in 55th.

Sayre had two other runners: Corey Ault (27:40.90) was 42nd and Deborah Shikanga (31:08.40) came in 54th.

The Athens has boys had four in the top 12 and three from 4-through-7, but couldn’t overcome Wyalusing going 1-2 in the invitational scoring format as they also had three in the top 10 and four in the top 14.

Wildcat Connor Dahl (17:28.70) was fourth to lead Athens, while Matt Gorsline (18:05.20) and Kyle Anthony (18:10.90) were sixth and seventh, respectively.

Justin Lynch (18:43.40) came in 12th, and Nate Prickitt (19:28.70) was 18th to round out their scoring five.

Sayre was led by Nathan Romano (21:01.10) in 36th, and Riley Parrish (26:52.80) came in 60th.

These runners will now move onto the District IV Championships, with Sayre in Class A and Athens in Class AA. The races will be on Thursday, Oct. 29 at Warrior Run High School with a 9 a.m. start.

Bronson will see some of the best runners in the state in Class AA, but believes she’s running well ahead of the race.

“We have a lot of really good runners right here, too,” said Bronson. “I think winning this race will help with confidence going into districts because we run against really good girls.”

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October 17, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens scored in the final 30 seconds of the first half, and then three more times in the second half to erase an 18-7 deficit en route to a 35-18 win over South Williamsport here Friday night in NTL football action at Alumni Stadium.

“We did some gut-checking at halftime. We talked about physicality. We weren’t tackling well,” said longtime Athens coach Jack Young. “We changed our defensive plan in the second half, and we improved our tackling. To me, that was the key.

“(South) is a physical football team, and we talked about that all week,” noted Young. “We came out and did exactly what we wanted to in the first drive, then we let them push us around, and control the physicality of the game.

“We came out against a very physical offensive football team, and our kids responded. In the second half, they really responded.

“The bottom line is, we played three games in 13 days. That’s difficult, I don’t care who you are,” added Young. “It was a great team W.”

Young said the Wildcats played well on both sides of the ball in the second half, but the biggest play of the game was made on special teams — a blocked punt by senior Ben Pernaselli that set up the go-ahead TD in the third quarter.

“Ben’s is a game-changer. He changed that game with the blocked punt,” said Young. “On punt return, he has the green light to go get the ball if he thinks he can get it. He went right through the blocker, and blocked that punt — to me that was the game-changer.”

The Wildcats rushed for 273 yards, with 171 yards coming after the halftime intermission. Junior Shayne Reid led the way with 199 yards and two TDs on 22 carries, while sophomore Caleb Nichols had 33 yards and one TD on seven carries, senior fullback Tanner Dildine added 22 yards on three touches.

“Our senior linemen — Connor Sindoni, Lucas Aquilio, Ian Wright, Zac Gowin, who is a newcomer for us, Caleb Houseknecht, and Ben Pernaselli really stepped it up for us,” said Young.

After forcing South Williamsport into a punt on its first possession, Athens took the ball and marched 82 yards on seven plays to take a 7-0 lead. Reid covered 76 yards on five carries, including an 18-yard TD run with 4:44 left in the first quarter.

The Mounties scored on its next three possessions with Zach Miller doing the majority of the damage. He rushed for 125 yards and one TD on 16 carries in the first two quarters, but only finished with 152 yards on 27 carries.

Miller ripped off runs of 35 and 24 yards in South’s five-play, 67-yard scoring drive that was capped by QB Landon Lorson 3-yard TD run with 2:27 left in the first quarter. The point-after was no good leaving Athens ahead 7-6.

After a quick three-and-out by the Wildcats, the Mounties marched 63 yards on nine plays, with Miller carrying the ball seven times for 44 yards, including a 5-yard TD run with 8:55 remaining in the first half. The conversion failed, but South led 12-7.

The Wildcats got a quick first down on its next possession, thanks to a 10-yard pass from Lister to junior Karter Rude, but a penalty and a pair of negative plays left them facing 4th-and-24.

The Mounties needed just five plays to march 56 yards after the Wildcat punt, with Lorson connecting with Grant Bachman on a 29-yard TD hook-up with 4:05 left in the half to up the advantage to 18-7.

The Wildcat offense roared back to life on its next possession.

Lister completed three passes — 8- and 9-yarders to Reid, and a 16-yard completion to Rude, and Nichols picked up 17 yards on four carries to move the ball to the South Williamsport 9 with 37 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Wildcats caught a break when Reid’s fumble at the 1 was recovered by a Mountie as he rolled out-of-bounds, leaving the Wildcats with possession at the 1. Lister finished off the drive with a QB keeper with 28 seconds remaining.

Reid’s second point-after kick trimmed the deficit to 18-14.

The Wildcat defense bailed out the special teams early in the third quarter. On the opening kick of the second half, Athens failed to cover a squib kick, and the Mounties pounced on it at the Athens 19.

Six plays later, on fourth-and-goal at the 7, Grant Bachman hauled in a pass from Lorson, but Athens defensive back Jared Peterson made a TD-saving tackle at the 1.

The Wildcats picked up a pair of first downs to move the ball out of the shadow of their end zone, but eventually punted the ball away. Nichols’ 52-yard punt pinned the Mounties at their own 15.

Athens forced South into a three-and-out, and Pernaselli came up with a punt block, and Aiden Harford pounced on the loose ball at South’s 1-yard line.

“Our stop after a big, big mistake on the opening kickoff of the second half was huge, but Ben Pernaselli’s blocked punt was the game-changer,” said Young.

Lister scored on his second 1-yard plunge of the game on Athens’ first play, and Reid’s point-after kick made it 21-18 with 3:38 left in the first quarter.

The Athens defense forced another three-and-out, and the offense drove 78 yards on nine plays to increase its lead.

Reid covered the final 51 yards on three carries, including a 10-yard TD run with 10:12 remaining in the contest. Reid’s fourth PAT made it 28-18.

South Williamsport fumbled the ball away at its 25 on its ensuing possession, and Athens needed just two plays to find paydirt — a 20-yard run by Reid, and an 8-yard TD scamper by Nichols. Reid’s point-after kick with 7:38 remaining provided the final margin.

Later in the quarter, the Wildcats nearly added to their lead when sophomore linebacker Troy Jennings scooped up a Mountie fumble and rumbled 25 yards for an apparent score, but a block-in-the-back call negated the TD.

Lister, who had two rushing TDs, completed 5 of 12 passes for 50 yards. Rude and Reid each had two grabs, Rude’s for 26 yards, and Reid’s for 17.

Athens, now 4-1, travels to Montgomery Friday.

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October 15, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Five different players put their names in the scoring column to help Athens to a 5-1 win over Troy here Thursday evening in NTL boys soccer action.

After more than 24 minutes of scoreless action, junior Nate Quinn put the Wildcats in the scoring column, off an assist from junior Ryan Thompson.

About 10 1/2 minutes later, sophomore Jared Ammerman made it 2-0 with an unassisted goal.

Troy’s Wyatt Hodlofski cut the deficit to 2-1 with 4:40 remaining in half, but 65 seconds later junior Daniel Horton extended the Wildcat lead to 3-1, which is where it stood at the half.

The defenses held for the first 27 1/2 minutes of the second half until senior Joey Toscano, off a feed from senior Travis Reynard, made it 4-1.

Freshman Ryan LaSusa, off a feed from Ammerman, capped the scoring with 6:13 remaining.
Athens outshot Troy, 18-5, and had a 5-0 edge in corner kicks.

Troy keeper Owen Williams recorded 13 saves, and senior Asher Ellis had five saves for the Wildcats.

Athens, now 10-2,  returns to action Thursday at Sayre.

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October 15, 2020 Tim Birney

LIBERTY — Nine days ago, Athens took the first set from unbeaten North Penn-Liberty, but dropped the next three. Thursday’s NTL volleyball match was a near carbon copy.

The Lady Wildcats logged a 25-16 win in the first set, but NP-L, a state runner-up last season, bounced back to win the next three sets by scores of 25-20, 25-12, and 25-21.

The match was originally scheduled to be played at Athens, but the NP-L school district refuses to play any events in Bradford County, forcing Athens to make a choice: cancel the match, or travel to Liberty for the second time in nine days.

“It was one heck of a journey of rescheduling, getting a bus, and changing plans,” said Athens coach Heather Hanson. “It was our third game in three nights.

“The girls.played amped up and awesome,” noted Hanson. :”It was great to watch them step.up.

“I’m not worried about the loss because the improvement is incredible,” she added. “This loss is going to help us a ton.”

Senior Kayleigh Miller had 31 setter assists and 13 digs, and senior Taylor Field recorded 16 digs to lead Athens, while senior Leah Liechty registered 14 kills, and sophomore Jenny Ryan had 16 digs, seven kills, three assists, and two service aces.

Junior Taylor Walker had 11 digs, three kills and two aces for the Lady Wildcats, while senior Kylie Jayne put down nine kills, senior Grayce Witherow added seven digs and two aces, and junior Ally Martin chipped in with four kills, two aces, and two digs.

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October 14, 2020 Tim Birney

WELLSBORO — Just 24 hours after a five-set loss at Athens, Wellsboro swept the Lady Wildcats here Wednesday night in NTL volleyball action.

The Lady Hornets opened with a 25-14 win in the first set, rallied for a 25-22 win in the second set, and closed out the match with a 25-19.

“We couldn't put it all together enough times to get a win,” said Athens coach Heather Hanson. “It was another roller-coaster night of play.

“We did a lot of things right tonight, we just made errors at crucial moments,” added Hanson. “We played as a team, and lost as a team.”

Senior Kayleigh Miller dished out 26 setter assists and recorded 11 digs, and senior Leah Liechty registered 13 kills and four digs to lead the Lady Wildcats, and senior Taylor Field recorded 22 digs and two aces.

Senior Kylie Jayne knocked down 11 saves, while sophomore Jenny Ryan had six digs, four kills, and two assists, junior Taylor Walker had five digs, senior Grayce Witherow had four digs, junior Ally Martin added three kills, and senior Gia Perry chipped in with three digs.

The Lady Wildcats, now 7-4, returns to action Thursday against unbeaten North Penn-Liberty. The match was originally scheduled for Athens, but NP-L refused to play in Athens, so Athens will travel there for the second time in nine days.

“We have another road trip tomorrow and I give these girls kudos,” said Hanson. “That’s ome heck of a lot of games, traveling and mental focus in three days.

“No matter what, this team is an awesome team to coach,” she added. “I am inspired by the hard work and persistence they put into everything. It’s going to happen for them.”

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October 14, 2020 Tim Birney

TOWANDA — Athens got back on the winning track Wednesday night after its first league loss in nearly five years, but it wasn’t easy.

After battling to a 1-1 tie through the first 40 minutes, senior Emma Roe beat a pair of Towanda defenders to score what ended up being the game-winning goal early in the second half, lifting Athens to a 2-1 win here at the Endless Mountains Sports Complex.

Athens, which dropped a 2-1 decision at Wyalusing Monday, had the first good scoring chance of the evening came with 17:06 left in the first half as Roe found sophomore Ally Thoman deep in the box. Her shot was wide, though, keeping it 0-0.

Then, at the 16:25 mark, Roe scored her first goal. She had a run down the right side of the field, cut in and put it past Towanda keeper Erin Barrett with a low shot to the far corner.

Towanda answered with 3:33 remaining in the first half when Olivia Sparbanie made a long run of her own down the right side and hit a long shot just over Athens keeper Abby Champion’s finger tips to make it 1-1.

Athens had two more good opportunities to score before the intermission, but Barrett answered the call.

Moments after the game-tying goal, Roe found Thoman again deep in the box, but Barrett reacted quickly to the shot and scooped up the ball.

Then, with just under two minutes to play, Roe had a hard shot deflected that Barrett was able to clean up.

Athens put the pressure on Towanda early in the second half.

In the opening minutes, Athens had an indirect kick from just outside the box, but the Towanda defense held.

With 27:42 remaining in the contest, Roe made another strong run, cutting past two defenders, and hitting a shot inside the far post to make it 2-1.

The Lady Knights had two good scoring chances, but Champion and the defense preserved the win.

With 18:45 remaining to play, a Towanda corner kick sailed just over the crossbar. Then, with 1 minute on the clock they had another corner kick — Porschia Bennett put it on the far side of the box to Sparbanie, but her shot went high.

Athens had a 16-7 advantage in shots-on-goal, and a 5-3 edge in corner kicks.

Barrett had 11 saves in net for Towanda, and Champion had five saves for Athens.

Athens, now 8-1-1, hosts Troy Saturday morning at 10 a.m.

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October 13, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — In a back-and-forth affair, Athens prevailed in a five-set marathon over Wellsboro here Tuesday night in NTL volleyball action.

The Lady Green Hornets opened with a 25-18 win in the first set, but the Lady Wildcats bounced back with wins of 25-21, and 25-18. Wellsboro forced a decisive fifth set with a 25-11 win in the fourth set.

Athens closed out the win with a 15-11 decision in the fifth set.

“We got off to a slow start and the match was a little bit of a roller-coaster ride … and I’m not even
sure what happened the fourth game,” said Athens coach Heather Hanson. “However, with the random runs of errors they turned it around and fought back.

“Wellsboro did not let us get first-swing kills, we had to fight and rally and keep going,” noted Hanson. “Both teams fought hard it was a relentless match.

“Now, we see them (Wednesday) at their house,” she added. “I’m excited for tomorrow.”

Senior Kayleigh Miller had 43 setter assists, 12 digs, and three service aces, and senior Leah Liechty registered 26 kills and three aces to lead the Lady Wildcats, while senior Taylor Field recorded 26 digs, and sophomore Jenny Ryan had 11 kills and three digs.

Senior Kylie Jayne had 10 kills in the win, while junior Taylor Walker had seven digs and two aces, senior Grayce Witherow added five digs, and two aces, and junior Ally Martin chipped in with four kills and four digs.

Athens, now 7-3, travels to Wellsboro (6-2) Wednesday night.

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October 13, 2020 Tim Birney

ENS — Wellsboro scored goals just 61 seconds apart, sandwiched around the halftime intermission, in a 3-0 win over Athens here Tuesday afternoon in NTL boys soccer action.

With the win, the Green Hornets sweep the season series from the Wildcats, and virtually assure themselves of winning the NTL title, snapping Athens’ six-year stranglehold on the crown.

The early portion of the game was an entertaining battle of runs and counter-attacks.

Athens junior Nate Quinn’s long-range shot from 40 yards out force Wellsboro keeper off his feet to make a leaping save just under the cross bar about seven minutes into the contest.

In the 11th minute, Wellsboro controlled the ball in the box in front of the Athens goal for about 20 seconds, firing off three shots, but none got to Athens keeper Asher Ellis, instead deflecting off Athens defenders.

Moments later, Quinn fired off a shot from about 25 yards out that clanked off the post.

With 11:44 remaining in the first half, Kaeden Mann’s shot from just inside the 18 deflected off an Athens defender and high into the air. As Wellsboro’s Jack PoirIer positioned himself for a header, Ellis attempted a leaping grab of the loose ball, resulting in a mid-air collision.

Ellis was whistled for a foul, and Mann converted on the resulting penalty shot, albeit off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net, to give the Green Hornets a 1-0 lead.

In the closing moments of the first half, Mann crossed a pass to Joseph Grab, who one-touched it back across the goal mouth to Jack Poirier at the far post. Jack Poirier volleyed it past a diving Ellis into the net to make it 2-0 with 21 seconds remaining.

Off the opening kick of the second half, Mann collected a loose ball in front of the Athens goal, and fired a shot through traffic into the back of the net to give the Green Hornets a 3-0 lead.

Wellsboro continued to keep the pressure on the Athens goal, but Ellis made a number of diving and leaping saves in the second half to keep the game within reach.

Wellsboro had a 25-12 advantage in shots-on-goal, and an 8-3 edge in corner kicks.

Ellis had 22 saves in net for the Wildcats, while Ethan Ryan had 12 for Wellsboro.

Athens, now 9-2, hosts Troy Thursday afterno

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October 13, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens capped an unbeaten regular season to defend its NTL boys cross country title here Tuesday afternoon with wins over Northeast Bradford, North Penn-Mansfield, and Wellsboro.

NP-M’s Noah Shedden kept the Wildcats from shutting out all three teams. Shedden placed first in a time of 17:20, and Athens runners finished second through sixth, respectively, to top the short-handed Tigers, 15-50.

The Wildcats swept the top five spots in a 15-48 wins over NEB, and a 15-50 victory over Wellsboro.

Connor Dahl paced the Athens effort in a time of 17:48, while Kyle Anthony clocked in at 17:57, Matt Gorsline finished in 18:21, Justin Lynch crossed the finish line in 19:20, and Ethan Denlinger clocked in at 19:43.

Izaak Hobday finished 10th for the Wildcats in a time of 20:06, while Nate Prickett was 12th in 20:31, Mason Henderson was 13th in 21:05, and Connor Brown (22:22), Brendan Jones (22:31), and Jon Ayers (22:55) finished 16th through 18th, respectively.

Emma Bronson and Thea Bentley finished 2-3, but with just four runners in action, the Lady Wildcats dropped 15-50 decisions to NEB, North Penn-Mansfield and Wellsboro.

Bronson clocked in at 21:52, while Bentley crossed the line in 23:36.

Cailyn Conklin finished 12th in 26:39 for the Lady Wildcats, and Macaria Benjamin was 20th in 29:34.

Athens returns to action Saturday morning at the NTL Coaches Invite.

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October 12, 2020 Chris Manning

WYALUSING — Down a goal late in the second half Athens had its only clean look at a ball in front of the Wyalusing net. Two Wildcats converged on it to shoot, only to have the ball sail over the crossbar.

That was how the afternoon went for the Lady ‘Cats in their 2-1 loss to Wyalusing in NTL girls’ soccer action Monday.

The loss was the first for Athens in league play in Pitts’ tenure — now in its fifth season. Entering the game, Pitts’ record in NTL games was 57-0-3.

“I thought we played well. It’s a tough field … it’s like a little postage stamp, but that’s what they have, so that’s what you show up and play on,” said Athens coach Rich Pitts. “I thought our girls fought the whole game, and played our style of soccer.

“That’s the game sometimes,” noted Pitts. “It’s the law of averages, I guess. Eventually, we are going to lose.

“Hats off to Wyalusing. They played hard, they played well. They played guys tough (at Athens), and they played us tough tonight on their own field, with some good crowd support,” added Pitts.

Athens’ last league loss was a 2-1 setback to Sayre at the Lockhart Street Bowl on Oct. 24, 2015. It snapped a 64-game regular-season league win streak.

The Ram defense was able to contain Emma Roe, Hannah Blackman and Ally Thoman much of the day while getting big goals from Alexis Capone and Marissa Johnson. Johnson’s was a penalty kick.

Thoman did break through in the second half to cut it to 2-1, but they didn’t get any closer than that, despite outshooting Wyalusing 12-6 and having a 5-2 edge in corner kicks.

Early in the game, the Wildcats had the Rams bunkered down with a series of corner kicks, but the defense held as Athens couldn’t get a clean look in the box. After that, for much of the first half, they tried long-range shots, but Wyalusing goalie Pearl O’Connor easily swallowed them up.

Wyalusing’s first good chance to score came at 31:20 as Olivia Haley got a breakaway. She aimed for the top right corner, just like her winner at Towanda, but this time it was a couple feet outside the right post.

It was a preview of how the Rams would score at 22:19 as Capone got free down the left side of the field. She buried it past the Athens goalie Abby Champion for the 1-0 lead.

Late in the half, Thoman had the best look yet for the Wildcats, coming in from the left side she had a free look at the goal. She shot low, but O’Connor was ready, scooping up the ball to preserve the 1-0 halftime lead.

The beginning of the second half saw some wide-open play as both teams made runs. Athens continued to control possession, but the Rams weren’t hunkered down like early in the first half.

The Wildcats had a good chance to score at 26:35 as a Hannah Blackman shot rebounded off of O’Connor. Norah Reid crashed for the opportunity, but O’Connor cleaned it up.

At 22:30, Haley had a free run down the left side, but her shot was just wide. Athens wasn’t able to clear it, though, and a minute later Haley drew a foul inside the box on the Wildcats.

Johnson took the penalty kick and calmly buried it in the left corner for a 2-0 Wyalusing lead.

“The PK was really soft. I thought our defender did a good job, but (the official) thought it was a PK,” said Pitts. “The (Wyalusing) girl didn’t lose possession of the ball, and didn’t fall down. I’m not sure how it was a PK, but it was because (the official) called it.”

Just as things were looking dire for Athens, its offense seemed to wake up. After drawing a foul, they had a direct kick in Wyalusing’s end. The ball ended up on Roe’s foot.

Her shot bounced off a Ram defender only for Thoman to pick it up. She found a seam on the left side of the defense and snuck it past O’Connor to trim the deficit to 2-1 with 21:07 left to play.

Haley tried to answer at 11:45 with a run, but after that it was all Athens.

They moved Hannah Walker up from the backline, and she put O’Connor on notice with a bullet from outside the box. O’Connor managed dive in front and knock it away, but it was a harbinger of things to come.

With 6:07 left, Wyalusing had its first miscue defensively and let a cross roll free through the box. Two Athens players converged on it, but the shot went over the crossbar.

Then at 4:30, the Wildcats had back-to-back chances, the first off of Walker’s foot that forced O’Connor to make another diving save, and the second was blocked by a Wyalusing defender to preserve the 2-1 lead.

That seemed to be Athens’ last gasp as Wyalusing was able to clear it.

The Wildcats now play Towanda Wednesday as they fall into a tie with Wellsboro at 7-1-1 in the NTL standings. Wyalusing is just behind both teams at 7-2.

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October 12, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — It took a couple of series to shake off the rust — the result of not playing a game in 31 days, but once Canton hit its stride, it put together a convincing performance in a 33-9 win over Athens here Monday night in NTL Large School football action at Alumni Stadium.

“We were rusty, which I’m not happy about, but I guess it had to be expected,” said Canton coach Tyler Sechrist. “We haven’t played in a month, and we only had three practices before this game.

“Once we got rolling, I was happy with the way we played,” added Sechrist.

“They are a good football team, there’s no doubt. They are well-coached, and have some talented kids,” said Athens coach Jack Young. “But, we did some things that are out of character for us, and it’s tough to compete against a team like Canton when you do those types of things.”

The Warriors opened the game with the ball, but a block-in-the-back penalty and a QB sack by seniors Athens Tanner Dildine and Caleb Houseknecht left them in a fourth-and-30 hole.

The Wildcats took over at their own 40 following a Canton punt, and quickly moved into Warrior territory as sophomore QB Mason Lister connected with junior Shayne Reid on a 12-yard completion, and junior Karter Rude on a 17-yard pick-up.

The drive bogged down after Lister could not handle a high shotgun snap, and the Wildcats were forced to punt.

Junior Caleb Nichols’ punt went out-of-bounds at the Canton 18, and the Warriors fumbled the ball away on their first play, giving the Wildcats the ball just 16 yards from paydirt.

The Canton defense, however, limited Athens to just three yards on three plays, forcing the Wildcats to attempt a field goal. Reid spilt the uprights from 30 yards out to give Athens a 3-0 lead with 6:23 remaining in the first quarter.

The rest of the first half was all Canton as they scored on their next three possessions, and added a defensive score on an odd play as time expired.

“Athens came out strong,” said Sechrist. “They were pretty tough the first series against the run, but I think we wore some of those big guys down a little bit. We just kept after them.

“I was happy with our two backs, and the way the (offensive) line came back answered,” he added.

“Canton definitely got some momentum off that stop,” said Young. “You would think the momentum would have been on our side at that point, but it wasn’t.

“From there on, it was just too many negatives,” added Young. “We missed on two scoring opportunities in the first half, and there were too many negatives. When the negatives outweigh the positives, it’s tough to compete.”

The Warriors answered Athens’ field goal with an eight-play, 58-yard scoring drive. The first seven plays featured the running of sophomores Hayden Ward and Riley Parker.

Parker ripped off 22 yards on three carries, and Ward added 16 yards on three carries. The drive culminated with a wide receiver screen to Joel Schoonover for a 22-yard TD with 1:56 remaining in the first quarter. Tyler Jannone’s PAT snuck over the crossbar to give Canton a 7-3 lead.

Jared Peterson returned the ensuing kickoff 30 yards to midfield, but the Warriors forced a punt after just three plays. Nichols’ punt bounced through the end zone, giving Canton the ball at its 20.

Runs of 20 yards by junior QB Cooper Kitchen, and 25 yards by Parker quickly moved the ball to the Wildcat 35. Five plays later, Kitchen connected with 6-5 tight end Ben Knapp on a 15-yard TD pass to make it 13-3 with 9:01 remaining in the first half.

Disaster struck for the Wildcats on the ensuing kickoff as Ward stripped the Athens returner of the ball, then recovered the fumble at the Wildcat 24.

Following a 12-yard run by Ward, Parker covered the final 12 yards on two carries, including an 8-yard TD jaunt with 7:38 remaining. Jannone’s point-after kick made it 20-3.

After an exchange of punts, Athens took over at its 17, and were quickly pinned back inside their 10 following a holding penalty.

Aided by a pair of Canton penalties that accounted for 25 yards, the Wildcats drove the length of the field. Runs of 18 and 10 yards by Lister, and completions from Lister to Rude for 10 and 12 yards were key in the drive.

With time running out, Lister attempted to scramble into the end zone, but he was hit at Canton 5-yard line as time expired. Trying to keep the play alive, Lister flipped the ball backward toward a teammate, but it found the turf, where Canton sophomore Weston Bellows scooped it up at the 17, and raced 83 yards for the score to make it 26-3 at the half.

“That was a huge change of events, it’s not something you usually see,” said Sechrist. “I thought (Athens) was going to score, (but) we end up scooping and scoring right before the half; that was a big part of the outcome.”

“Mason was just trying to make something happen, but those are mistakes we can’t make,” said Young. “It should have been 19-3, and we’re still in it.

“Two of their scores in the first half came off turnovers.,” noted Young. “You take those two away, and it’s a 12-3 game at the half.”

Athens took the second-half kickoff, and thanks to 35 rushing yard by Reid, who also caught a pair of passes for 15 yards, marched into the Canton red zone.

On fourth-and-6 at the Canton 13, Lister connected with 6-5 junior J.J. Babcock in the back of the end zone to cut the deficit to 26-9.

Moments after the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats caught a big break when a backward pass bounced off the intended Warrior receiver’s shoulder pads, and Rude recovered it at the Canton 22.  An unsportsmanlike conduct call against the Warriors moved the ball half-the-distance to the goal line.

Four plays later, Reid was stopped inches short of a first down at the Canton 1.

“Our defense hung in there a couple times,” said Sechrist.

“We got the stop after the turnover in the third quarter, and we held them to a field goal after a fumble early in the game,” he added. “Those were big, that’s what helps you win football games.”

“We thought we had the first down, but those are the breaks of the game,” said Young. “We’re still OK if we make a quick stop, but on third-and-long, they punch one out there on us, and that was kind of a back-breaker.”

The “back-breaker” was a 15-yard run by Parker on third-and-8 from the Warrior 3.

After a Canton punt, Athens moved the ball to the Warrior 33, but back-to-back sacks by junior Caiden Williams and senior Derek Atherton-Ely ended the threat.

Canton moved the ball into Athens territory, thanks in large part to 29 yards on three carries by Parker, but the Warriors threat ended with their third lost fumble in the contest.

Athens ensuing possession was short-lived as Knapp registered a QB sack, and Williams and freshman Mason Harold combined to haul Lister down behind the line-of-scrimmage to force a turnover on downs.

Parker put the finishing touches on the Warrior win with a 47-yard TD run with 3:23 remaining in the contest.

Lister was sacked six times in the fourth quarter, with senior Evan Landis and freshman Hudson Ward getting to him in the Wildcats’ final possession of the game.

Parker led the Warrior ground game with 176 yards and two TDs on 19 carries, while Hayden Ward added 50 yards on seven carries, and Kitchen chipped in with 25 yards on six carries. As a team, Canton rushed for 254 yards on 36 attempts.

Kitchen also completed 6 of 8 pass attempts for 46 yards and two TDs. Knapp led Canton with three receptions for 25 yards and one TD, and Schoonover had two grabs for 25 yards and one TD.

Reid led the Wildcats with 78 rushing yards on 17 carries, and seven receptions for 50 yards.

Lister completed 15 of 29 pass attempts for 121 yards and one TD. Rude had four catches for 40 yards, while sophomore Caleb Nichols had two grabs for 25 yards. Babcock had his 13-yard TD catch, and senior Ben Pernaselli had one reception for seven yards.

Athens, now 3-1, hosts South Williamsport Saturday night.

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October 10, 2020 Tim Birney

LeRAYSVILLE — Athens scored a pair of first-half goals, then made them stand up in a 2-0 win over Northeast Bradford here Saturday afternoon in NTL boys soccer action.

The Wildcats dominated the time-of-possession, and enjoyed a 17-0 advantage in shots-on-goal, and a 4-1 edge in corner kicks.

Junior Nate Quinn scored an unassisted goal about 10 minutes into the game to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

With 7:02 remaining in the first half, the strong leg of senior Tyler Chambers gave Athens a 2-0 lead on a direct kick.

Garrett Cooper recorded 13 saves in net for the Panthers. Cooper had 20 saves in NEB’s 2-1 loss at Athens on Sept. 30.

Athens, now 9-1, hosts unbeaten Wellsboro Tuesday in a key NTL match-up.

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October 8, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — With first place on the line, Thursday’s Athens-Wellsboro’s girls soccer "battle of unbeatens" at Alumni Stadium had a postseason feel to it.

The Lady Wildcats scored goals 84 seconds apart early in the second half, and withstood a late Wellsboro goal to take sole possession of first place with a 2-1 win.

Athens has won back-to-back District 4 titles, and eight consecutive NTL championships. Athens coach Rich Pitts says this team has every intention to extend both those streaks.

“It’s a huge win for us,” he said.

“(Wellsboro) walked into the building … they were focused, and they were ready to beat us,” noted Pitts. “They thought they were going to beat us, and I challenged my girls — ‘not in our house, not this time, not anytime’ and the girls responded.

“We’re going to be the champs until somebody knocks us off. That’s not cocky, it’s just the attitude we always come with,” added Pitts. “Somebody might (knock us off) and that’s OK, but they’re going to have to beat us. We’re never going to beat ourselves.”

Athens controlled the ball throughout the contest, outshooting Wellsboro, 16-2, and also had a 7-2 edge in corner kicks.

“We changed to a 4-2-3-1,” said Pitts. “I ran it by the older girls, and they wanted to try it because we were getting a lot of pressure on with just three backs. Sitting two in front shuts everyone down, it’s just about having pace with your midfielders so you can get everyone forward.

“In the second half, we were better, especially the midfielders, getting pace, getting forward, and getting chances,” added Pitts. “It was a good game for us.”

The Lady Wildcats put pressure on the Wellsboro net from the outset. However, between errant Athens shots, and a couple nice saves by Green Hornet keeper Lilly Abadi, the game was scoreless at the intermission.

Early in the second half, Roe took a feed well outside the 18, dribbled through three or four Wellsboro defenders, and beat Abadi with a shot inside the net at the far post to give the Lady Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

“That was good stuff,” said Pitts. “(Emma) has a short memory. She missed some goals she probably should have had, but she forgot about it and moved on.

“She’s the motor of this team, and every game that clicks off is one less game I’m going to have her,” he added. “It’s been such a treat to coach her, she’s just a great kid overall. She plays 80 minutes and she still has tons of energy.”

With 33:48 remaining in the contest, Roe, along the baseline, sent a pass through the box to the far post, where senior Hannah Blackman one-touched into the back of the next from 10 yards out to make it 2-0.

Pitts credits another switch — moving Roe up front, and sophomore Ally Thoman to the midfield — for the pressure on the Wellsboro goal.

“On the way here tonight, I decided to put (Emma) up top, and see what we can do,” said Pitts.

“Emma is a midfielder, but she can score goals. Usually she’s coming from deeper in the field, so getting that in the pocket is not what she normally does. They bracketed her with two girls, there were basically six girls marking her.

“Ally (Thoman) is only a sophomore … those balls she was playing through to Emma in the first half were nice. We work on that a lot, and Ally got her head up, and found Emma a ton,” noted Pitts. “It was brilliant stuff.

“I thought Thoman played a great game tonight, putting her in the spotlight role that Emma usually runs,” he added. “And (Hannah) Blackman is always there for us, she’s a stud back there.”

Athens maintained pressure on the Wellsboro goal, but Abadi and the Green Hornet defense kept the score at 2-0.

With 6 1/2 minutes remaining, Kerrah Clymer, off a feed from Cara Tennis, put Wellsboro on the board.

With 4 minutes remaining, the Lady Wildcats got off three hard shots from inside 15 yards, but Abadi made two athletic saves, and another shot ricocheted off a defender.

Athens kept the ball in the Wellsboro for nearly all of the remaining four minutes.

Athens, now 7-0-1, travels to Wyalusing Monday, while Wellsboro, now 6-1-1, travels to NP-Mansfield Saturday.

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October 8, 2020 Tim Birney

TOWANDA — Athens bounced back from a four-set loss at North Penn-Liberty Tuesday, with a sweep of Towanda here Thursday night in NTL Large School volleyball action.

Last year, Athens twice won the first two sets against Towanda, only to lose the next three.

The Lady Wildcats won by scores 25-18, 25-18, and 25-19.

Athens coach Heather Hanson was pleased with her team’s poise and concentration.

“I’m glad we didn't give them a set, it’s something we’ve been working on.

“It was deathly silent in the gym, so the girls did great dealing with it and trying their best to make noise.,” noted Hanson.

Senior Leah Liechty led the Lady Wildcats, registering 17 kills and two assists.

“Leah Liechty was on fire tonight,” said Hanson. “It was great to see.”

Senior Kayleigh Miller had 36 setter assists, 12 digs, and two service aces for Athens, while senior Taylor Field recorded 19 digs and two aces, senior Kylie Jayne had 10 kills, five digs, and three aces, and junior Ally Martin had seven kills, four digs, and three aces.

Sophomore Jenny Ryan had seven digs, four kills, and three aces in the win, while junior Taylor Walker had five kills, four digs, and three aces, senior Grace Witherow added seven digs, and senior Gia Perry chipped in with three digs.

DaLanie Pepper led Towanda with five service points, 15 assists, nine digs, and two kills, while Paige Manchester had seven points, nine kills, thee blocks, and six digs, Grace Schoonover registered nine kills and four blocks, Blaze Wood added seven digs and thee kills, and Amanda Horton chipped in with two points and seven digs.

Athens, now 6-3, hosts Wellsboro Tuesday.

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