Seniors shine in win over Northampton
Senior night is always a big night for high school teams and Parkland’s celebration on Tuesday turned out to have a couple extra highlights to it, including a 6-0 win over Northampton.
The usual game plan is to start some of the senior players who don’t get much playing time, or try to get them some significant playing time during the game. With a roster featuring 14 seniors, it was impossible for every senior to start, but that problem worked itself out when senior starters Bryce Evans, Andrew Luchansky and Owen Iacobelli came up with a plan.
“They came up to me and said ‘we don’t have to start, so you can get other guys a start,’” said coach Patrick Birns. “When that happens, you do things outside the box and we had some different kids playing the field.”
One senior got to start at a very different position. With senior goalie Jacob Varrato being the usual starter, Matthew Lytle has stayed ready as his backup, but has seen little playing time. Against Northampton, Lytle traded in his goalie jersey for that of a position player and took the field as a starter.
As luck would have it, with time running down, Northampton was called for a penalty inside the box and Lytle was given the chance to be on the offensive side of a penalty kick with 1:42 left in the game. After a prolonged argument by Northampton players, Lytle positioned the ball and fired a shot past goalie Brady Rimple for Lytle’s first varsity goal.
“It was exhilarating to be out there on senior night and it was just such a great feeling to score,” said Lytle. “Being a goalie, I’ve always wanted to play out on the field and it’s always been fun to play out on the field, so it was great just scoring and being out there with my team.”
Now that he’s had a chance to be on both sides of a penalty kick, Lytle can expertly talk about which is easier.
“Probably the kicking side,” said Lytle with a laugh. “Being the goalie is a lot more stressful on you, but it was a little nerve-wracking being on the shooting side, also.”
Senior Josh Kiser scored the first three goals, with the first coming late in the first half and the next two coming in rapid succession in the second half, just 38 seconds apart.
“It feels great,” said Kiser. “It’s been a real pleasure playing for Parkland soccer and it’s great getting to represent Parkland. There’s no better way to finish it off than with a win with the team.”
Senior Dylan Fejes scored in the second half. Three minutes later, junior Teagan Mangahas put a header past Rimple for a 5-0 lead.
While Birns isn’t a big fan of moving players outside of their normal roles, the large class of seniors and the sacrifice of three senior starters to step aside from their starting spots for the night made it a little easier to do and it turned out that the coach really enjoyed the finished product.
“The fact that he [Lytle] had a goal and Hunter Jones had an assist, a really nice assist, that was cool,” said Birns. “I never really like doing that, but we’ve got 14 seniors, so you have to adjust.”
For now, nobody is worrying about how losing 14 senior players will affect the team next season. Instead, they’re focusing on the task at hand with the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference playoffs set to start on Saturday and districts to follow. Parkland (16-1 overall; 15-0 EPC) will be the top seed in the conference playoffs and very likely in districts as well.
Birns believes his players’ attitude has contributed to the prorgam’s success.
“The key is that they waited their turn,” he said. “A lot of them had to wait their turn. Even this year, some of them are getting a lot of playing time and some are getting a little playing time, but you don’t hear anything because they feel what’s going on here and you just hope that gets pushed down to the younger guys.
“Some of the younger guys may have to realize that at a school like Parkland, you might not play until you’re a senior. That’s just the nature of the beast.”