October 22, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Not only was Wednesday Jake Lezak’s birthday, but the Athens coach was named the 2019-20 National Federation of High Schools Pa.  Boys Soccer Coach of the Year.

“It was a pretty good day,” said Lezak. “I’m basically speechless. It’s incredible, a fantastic honor, and very humbling.”

Athens athletic director J.B. Sullivan said Lezak, who has directed the Wildcats to four consecutive District 4 championship games — winning a pair of them, is a deserving recipient.

'I am ecstatic coach Lezak was selected,” he said. “In his near 20-year career at Athens, he and his staff have worked tirelessly for the betterment of Athens' student-athletes and have had exemplary results.   

“It is a very well-deserved honor and I congratulate him on behalf of Athens Area School District,” added Sullivan.

Currently in his 16th season at the helm of the Wildcats, Lezak has 244 victories, two District 4 titles, and countless NTL titles, including the last six.

Lezak doles out credit for his success to several sources — first and foremost being his family.

“There's no way I could do all of this without my wife and family support,” he said. “Merideth has supported my crazy passion through the years, and our family has been there to help with the boys and many other things so I can stay on the sideline.”

Secondly, Lezak credits his players throughout the years.

“It’s one of those things where you put a lot of time and work in with the players, and it’s the players who have really made something like this possible.

“Their work ethic, and their commitment to the program has been relentless,” he said. “They understand what our goals are, and they understand what we want to achieve as a program.

“We want recognition, and we want to be noticed as a team that’s going to compete,” continued Lezak. “One of the biggest things for us is, we don’t want to just show up at Districts, we want to make teams believe that we can win, and that we’ll beat them.

“As much as this is one person getting recognized here, this is really recognition for the entire program, and how far we’ve come in the last 17 years,” added Lezak, who has been head coach for 16 years, and took one year off early in his career.

One of the biggest contributors in Lezak’s success is longtime assistant coach Dan Lane, who was Lezak’s youth coach.

“Dan Lane has been with me since the beginning. It’s been great, we’ve really worked well together.

“Soccer is not his first true love, but I needed him, and I talked him into coaching,” said Lezak. “He was my youth coach in school, and I fell back on him.

“I had no clue what I was doing when it came to high school soccer,” he continued. “I had just gotten out of college as a player, and had coached goal keepers at that point.

“When I came back (to Athens), Dan didn’t really want to coach, but said ‘if you can’t find anybody else, I’ll do it,’” noted Lezak. “It’s been great, we compliment each other very well.

“Honestly, this program would not be where it’s at without him. And, I would not be where I am without such a good assistant coach,” Lezak added.

There are others to recognize as well.

“Zach Colegrove has been with us the last four-plus years, and he’s been a great asset to us.

“We’ve added some other assistant coaches this year as well,” said Lezak. “Having these younger guys step into assistant coaching roles, even though they’re volunteers, has helped lighten the load.

“I want them to learn. I want to help them become coaches, even if they don’t work within our program in the future,” he added. “Maybe they go somewhere else and make an impact on some other kids.”

One big key for Lezak has been constantly trying to make the program better.

“It really is a 12-month commitment,” said Lezak.

There is no off-season,” he noted. “We already have 32 guys signed up for the indoor season for next year’s team.

“We haven’t even finished the regular season yet, and we’ve already laid out the framework for next year,” added Lezak.

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October 22, 2020 Tim Birney

TOWANDA — Athens sailed to a 3-0 win over Towanda here Thursday night in NTL volleyball action to sweep the season series.

The Lady Wildcats, now 8-6, won by sores of 25-11, 25-11, and 25-14.

“That one day of practice helped the girls fine-tune a few things and they played great tonight,” said Athens coach Heather Hanson.

Senior Kayleigh Miller led Athens with 40 setter assists, eight digs, four service aces, and three kills, while junior Taylor Walker registered 12 kills and 10 digs, and senior Taylor Field recorded 25 digs.

Taylor Walker had an incredible game,” said Hanson. “We had three hitters get double-digit kills tonight. That makes me very happy.

“Taylor Field’s defense was beautiful, she is so graceful and relentless out there,” noted Hanson. “And, Kayleigh Miller guided the team with fantastic sets and got to every second ball.

Senior Leah Liechty had 11 kills, two aces, and two digs, while senior Kylee Jayne knocked down 11 kills, sophomore Jenny Ryan had eight kills, two digs, and two assists, junior Ally Martin added five kills and three digs, and seniors Grayce Witherow and Gia Perry chipped in with 13 and five digs, respectively.

“Grayce Witherow had some outstanding digs in the back row and was very aggressive on defense,” said Hanson.

Athens hosts Wyalusing Monday, and wraps up the regular season Tuesday at Wellsboro.

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October 22, 2020 Tim Birney

SAYRE — Senior Joey Toscano tallied a pair of goals, and four of his teammate also found the net as Athens rolled to a 6-0 win over Sayre here Thursday evening in NTL boys soccer action at the Lockhart Street Bowl.

After the Wildcats’ loss to Wellsboro on Oct. 13,  longtime Athens coach Jake Lezak said his team needed to play better. He liked what he saw Thursday.

“We have improved greatly in the last two weeks,” he said. “The players have been pushed for their technical side, and that’s really where we needed to improve the most. Tactically, I think we’re a smart team, and we understand the game.

“Technically we have a lot of deficits all over the place, and that’s what we’ve been focusing on — making sure we take care of the ball, our first-touches and making sure we connect.

“That was the problem against Wellsboro,” noted Lezak. “We were getting the passes off, and we were making the right runs, we were just passing it right to the other team.

“Tonight, we looked much better,” he added. “We played well.”

After playing Athens close in a 2-0 loss at Alumni Stadium earlier in the season, and with a return to health, Sayre coach Greg Hughey was expecting a close game Thursday.

“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “We’ve had some injuries, but we got everyone back, and we played a great game against Troy.

“(Athens) did the same runs, the same things they normally do. We just didn’t diagnose it, and we couldn’t keep up,” noted Hughey. “I didn’t think it was anything we hadn’t seen before, and I didn’t think it was anything we couldn’t handle, but tonight, for some reason, we just didn’t execute.

“Our communication was bad, too,” he added. “The second goal they scored in the first half was the result of poor communication … same thing with first goal in second half.”

Athens had a 14-5 advantage in shots-on-goal, although with the number of shots that sailed high and wide, it appeared much larger. The Wildcats also had a 4-3 edge in corner kicks.

Lezak said the key was controlling the ball, and keeping Sayre’s biggest offensive weapons in check.

“We knew that (Mason Hughey) and Cody (VanBenthuysen) needed to be kept in check,” he said. “They have great shots, and if they turn and you give them space, they’re going to put it on target.

“We knew defensively we needed to hold them down, but we also had to counter-attack and get out of there quickly.

“I think our backline did a fantastic job,” added Lezak. “(Hughey) put a lot of pressure on them, he’s a good player. He definitely kept us honest back there.”

Coach Hughey noted his team may have been relying too much on Mason Hughey and VanBenthuysen.

“We needed to push up a little more, and we didn’t do it,” he said. “We needed our center defensive-mids to be pushing up a little bit to help out. We had one or two guys running on offense, and that’s not enough against their defense.”

Toscano scored his first goal in the 23rd minute, and about three minutes later, junior Jason Gao made it 2-0, which is where it stood at halftime.

Junior Nate Quinn scored three minutes into the second half, which triggered a three-goal spree. Two minutes later, senior Travis Reynard rocketed a shot into the upper-90 to make it 4-0, and just 78 seconds after that, Toscano scored his second goal to make it 5-0.

“The third goal took the wind out of us a bit, then they just piled it up from there,” said Hughey. “We just fell apart defensively after that.”

Sophomore Ryan Thompson capped the scoring with 23:16 remaining in the contest.

Sophomore Cole Gelbutis recorded eight saves in net for the Redskins, and senior Asher Ellis had five for the Wildcats.

Athens wraps up the regular season at 11-2, while Sayre finishes at 5-8.

The Wildcats now await word on their official playoff seed, and a potential home game, while Sayre, unofficially in ninth place in the District 4, Class A power points rankings used to determine qualifiers waits to see if any team will decline the postseason opportunity, allowing the Redskins entry into the eight-team field.

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October 20, 2020 Tim Birney

TROY — Athens bounced back from a “disheartening” five-set loss at NEB Monday, with a sweep of Troy here Tuesday night in NTL Large School volleyball action.

The Lady Wildcats won by scores of 25-22, 25-14, and 26-24.

“The girls figured it out tonight, they played as a team,” said Athens coach Heather Hanson. “The girls made this game a team-building exercise.

“The slow starts, being down by five, giving up the lead several times, communication errors, and running into each other are all things that have contributed to us losing,” noted Hanson. “Tonight, the girls learned a little bit about depending on each other and were able to overcome the negatives that have gotten us the past three (matches).”

Hanson was also excited to have fans in attendance.

“Oh my gosh, what a loud crowd and awesome atmosphere,” she said. “You forget what it feels like! It was incredible to feel the love and hear the cheers and chanting from both sides. And this was just allowing two spectators per player.

“I know it means the world to the girls to have their biggest supporters cheering them on and I am so thankful and grateful to the Troy School District for letting the away team have spectators,” added Hanson. “And thanks to the Athens Board of Education for allowing us to have two spectators per player at the next home games coming up.”

Senior Kayleigh Miller led Athens with 24 setter assists, 16 digs, and two service aces, while sophomore Jenny Ryan had 11 digs and four kills, and junior Taylor Walker had 11 digs, four aces, and three kills.

Seniors Kylie Jayne and Leah Liechty registered 11 and 10 kills, respectively, , while senior Taylor Field recorded 13 digs and two kills, and junior Ally Martin added dix aces, four kills, and four digs.

Athens, now 8-6, returns to action Thursday when it hosts Towanda.

“I’m so pumped to have an actual practice tomorrow,” said Hanson. “It’s been a busy schedule of play, play, play, with no time to correct errors, or make adjustments. And, of course, my favorite, get back to basics and discipline.”

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October 20, 2020 Tim Birney

EAST TROY — Senior Emma Roe scored in the 16th minute, and the Athens defense made it stand up in a 1-0 win over Troy here in NTL girls soccer action on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.

The win is a bit of redemption for the Lady Wildcats, who dropped a 2-1 decision to Troy at home Saturday.

“I thought we played a really tough scrappy game tonight in a tough place to play,” said Athens coach Rich Pitts. “The girls really sacrificed their bodies tonight to pull out a huge win.

“And, we needed to win to, hopefully, pull off a home game in districts,” Pitts added, noting his team is currently the second seed in Class AAA standings.

With 24:06 remaining in the first half, sophomore Ally Thoman played a through ball from the corner, and Roe drove a shot into the net for the game’s only goal.

“Roe and Ally (Thoman) really put a lot of pressure on Troy's back line with speed and passing, including a great link up for the goal,” said Pitts.

The Athens coach said it was a complete team effort against a good Troy team.

“Hannah Blackman really did a great job putting girls in the best spots to be successful,” he said. “Her voice is so amazing and the information she gives is always spot on.

“Mya Thompson did everything asked of her in multiple positions,” said Pitts. “She has been a great addition for us this year.  She works so hard and did a great job marking (Nicole) McClellan the last 15 (minutes) of the game.  

And, Taylar Fisher and Norah Reid helped our back line shut down their speedy forwards by doubling them,” noted Pitts. “Mia Robinson, (Hannah) Walker, Teagan (Williams) and Kaylee (Grazul) were awesome all night dealing with the pressure they put on us.”

“I’m super-happy getting the win tonight, and now on to districts,” added Pitts.

Athens had a 9-8 edge in shots-on-goal, while Troy had a 6-3 advantage in corner kicks.

Olivia Tate had six save in net for Troy, while sophomore Abby Champion had three for Athens.

Athens wraps up the regular season at 9-2-1.

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October 19, 2020 Tim Birney

LERAYSVILLE — Northeast Bradford took a different route to get there, but in the end prevailed in another five-set thriller over Athens here Monday night in NTL volleyball action.

The Lady Wildcats pulled out a pair of close sets — 27-25 and 25-23, but the Lady Panthers re-grouped and won the final three sets by scores of 25-19, 25-17, and 15-7.

Athens coach Heather Hanson said the night was a mixed bag for her team.

“The first two games were really close, and we pulled out wins ,which proved to me we are getting mentally tough.

“Then, the third game hit and our errors dug us into too many holes,” said Hanson. “It’s discouraging

(No stats available.)

Athens, now 7-6, returns to action Tuesday at Troy.

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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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