November 10, 2020 Tim Birney

ens had nine players recognized by NTL coaches as league all-stars, including two first-team selections, and four second-team honorees.

Sayre junior Mason Hughey was voted the league's "Co-Offensive Player of the Year." Hughey, who tallied 29 goals and four assists, was one of the best finishers in the league in 2020.

Wellsboro senior Will Poirier scored 24 goals and doled out 29 assists, and was named the NTL “Most Valuable Player of the Year,” and his teammate — senior Kaeden Mann — scored 19 goals and dished out eight assists and was the other “Co-Offensive MVP.”

Wellsboro’s Zach Singer and Towanda’s Daniel Wright shared the “Co-Defensive MVP” honors.


Ethan Ryan, Wellsboro.

Zach Singer, Wellsboro;
Daniel Wright, Towanda;
Landon Lantz, Athens;
Zach Rowland, Wellsboro.

Will Poirier, Wellsboro;
Mason Hughey, Sayre;
Wyatt Hodlofski, Troy;
Taylor Nelson, NP-L.

Forward / Striker
Jack Poirier, Wellsboro;
Joe Grab, Wellsboro;
Nathan Quinn, Athens;.
Kaden Mann, Wellsboro;

Asher Ellis, Athens.

Jon Wetzel, Wellsboro ;
Jason Gao, Athens;
Connor Faust, Troy;
Jia Yang Huang, Sayre;
Zach Hoffman, NP-L.

Travis Reynard, Athens;
Brayden Post, Sayre;

Nick Place, Towanda;
Caleb Morgan, Williamson;
Tyler Chambers, Athens.

Forward / Striker
Cody VanBenthuysen, Sayre;

Caiden Alexander, NP-L;
Logan Lambert, Towanda;
Brandon Kuhn, NEB.

Honorable Mention
Cole Gelbutis, Sayre.

James Benninger Jones, Athens;
Colby Blakeman, Athens;

Jacob Case, Troy;
Jared Jones, Towanda.

Owen Richardson,Wellsboro;
Isias Watkins, Troy;
Dustin Benedict, Wellsboro;
Brady Sparling, Troy.

Forward / Striker

Derek Litzelman, NP-L;
Daniel Horton, Athens;
Jackson Brion, NP-L;
Sam Rudy, Wellsbo

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October 31, 2020 Tim Taylor

ATHENS — Jersey Shore erased the bitter taste of three consecutive PIAA District 4 semifinal losses to Athens here Saturday afternoon, downing the Wildcats, 1-0, in a Class AAA semi-final match-up.

It's the first time in five seasons the Wildcats will not play in the Class AAA championship game.

Bulldog sophomore Peyton Welshans notched the only goal of the game, working a shot into the back of the net with 28:28 remaining in the second half.

A brief defensive breakdown set up Welshans' shot as he would collect the ball behind the defense and when Wildcat goalkeeper Asher Ellis came out of goal to challenge, Welshans was able to find some space.

"I think throughout the season most of the goals that we had go in against us probably were an overwhelming majority of our own small mistakes, a bobble here or a PK is called there," Athens coach Jake Lezak said. "I think one PK during the season was an actual PK."

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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

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 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 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 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 7, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Junior Nate Quinn scored two goals and dished out two assists to lead Athens to a 6-1 win over Williamson here Wednesday evening in NTL boys soccer action at Alumni Stadium.

The Wildcats, who won four games last week, improve to 8-1 with the win.

“After a tough week on the team physically last week, we were able to get some quality training in the past two days,” said Athens coach Jake Lezak. “It really paid off for us, and the players are getting more touches on the ball and better each session.

“We covered some tactical issues that we need to continue to reinforce, and they boys did a really nice job tonight with transferring training to the game.

“A few players were shuffled around and played very well for us tonight,” added Lezak.

Senior Tyler Chambers scored an unassisted goal about 5 1/2 minutes into the game, and Quinn make his first mark in scorebook with a goal at the 12-minute mark to make it 2-0.

Five minutes later junior Daniel Horton, off a feed from Quinn, scored to make it 3-0, which carried over into the halftime intermission.

Nine minutes into the second half, senior Joey Toscano, off a feed from Quinn, scored to give the Wildcats a 4-0 lead.

Quinn, with an assist from junior Jason Gao, scored his second goal to make it 5-0 with 23:58 left in the contest.

Sophomore Jared Ammerman, off an assist from freshman Korey Miller,  capped the Athens scoring with 1:53 remaining in the contest.

Caleb Coats put Williamson on the scoreboard on a penalty kick with 66 seconds remaining.

Athens had a 16-2 advantage in shots-on-goal, and a 4-3 edge in corner kicks.

Athens returns to action Saturday at NEB. Game time is 1 p.m.

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October 7, 2020 Tim Birney

SAYRE — Seven different Athens players found the net in an 8-0 win over Sayre here Wednesday afternoon in NTL junior high soccer action at Riverfront Park.

Eli Benninger-Jones and Addyson Wheeler scored goals in the first 10 minutes to give the junior Wildcats a quick 2-0 lead.

Pete Jones added a goal five minutes later, and Chase Ingram scored at the 25-minute mark to give Athens a 4-0 lead at the halftime intermission.

Jase Babcock recorded three saves in net in the first half.

Babcock took to the field in the second half, and scored just five minutes after the intermission to make it 5-0.

Ronel Ankem, Ingram, and Adam Kemp added second-half goals to close out the scoring.

Hannah Earls had one save for Athens in second half.

Athens had a 4-0 edge in corner kicks.

The game was called early due to thunder and severe weather.

Athens improves to 9-0-1 on the season, while Sayre falls to 1-6.

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Athens, Valley Sports Report & Circle W Sports to launch new Wildcat Athletics website

Athens, Valley Sports Report & Circle W Sports to launch new Wildcat Athletics website

February 24, 2020 Tim Birney

WAVERLY - River Road Media Group, parent company of Valley Sports Report, and Circle W Sports announced a partnership Sunday with the Athens Area School District to provide an athletic web site for all Wildcat sports.

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Athens' Scheftic Signs to play at Penn State-Behrend.

Athens' Scheftic Signs to play at Penn State-Behrend.

February 21, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens senior David Scheftic is ready to write the next chapter in his life, and he's found the perfect setting for the next four years. On Thursday, he signed a National Letter-of-Intent to play college soccer at Penn State-Behrend.

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