HERSHEY — For the first 12 minutes of Saturday’s Class 2A boys soccer state championship game, Lewisburg didn’t seem to be firing on all cylinders.
The Green Dragons weren’t sharp, which coach Ben Kettlewell thought might happen due to the nerves that come from a state championship game.
Everything changed for Lewisburg because of the dogged determination of Anthony Bhangdia, and the proper positioning of Philip Permyashkin.
Jack Dieffenderfer leapt to win a ball in the air that he headed to Bhangdia, who took off toward the goal. He lost the ball to a Deer Lakes defender, but won it back. Bhangdia then dribbled into a defender and the Lancers goalkeeper, but managed to keep control enough to poke the ball to Permyashkin.
“I just have to fight for every single ball,” Bhangdia said. “That’s what I’ve been taught since I was young. It worked out.”
It worked because Permyashkin was wide open in front of the goal. He calmly scored to put Lewisburg on the board and start the Green Dragons on their way to a 6-0 rout.
“I felt Philip’s goal relaxed us,” Kettlewell said. “I felt Philip’s goal allowed us go, ‘All right, we can do this.’ We started to play our game. I felt we got more opportunities after that.”
That sequence could have turned a different way, which might have allowed Deer Lakes to hang around longer in the game.
When Bhangdia lost the ball, he used a slide tackle to win it back and then popped up with the ball still at his feet to drive deeper into Deer Lakes’ territory.
“That’s Anthony,” Kettlewell said. “Anthony can make it look pretty. He can look like a blue-collar-type of player. He can do things in a variety of ways. He’s determined. He wasn’t going to give up.”
Bhangdia then drew the goalie and a defender away from the front of the goal, and nearly lost the ball again before making the pass.
“My mentality on every play is not to stop until it’s out of bounds or I’m not on the ball,” Bhangdia said. “I fought for the ball, fought for the ball. It fell to Philip’s feet, and he finished it.”
Permyashkin was in the right place, recalling what Kettlewell told him during Friday’s practice.
“When I saw (Bhangdia) cutting in, it brought me back to practice,” Permyashkin said. “Coach was like, ‘When you come in off the bench, make sure you have an impact on the game.’ That’s exactly what happened. I just made a run, and I knew if I got the ball I would score.”
That goal not only helped the Green Dragons relax, but it boosted their confidence as well.
“When Philip poached that one, I was very confident that we were going to go on to win it,” senior Ben Liscum said.
Before the half was over, Lewisburg was ahead 3-0. Forty minutes after that, the Green Dragons were celebrating their fourth state title and first since 2016.