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Spectacular Spartans

Valley West claims district title in dramatic fashion in veteran coach’s last year.

Wyoming Valley West assistant coach Joe DePasquale gets sprayed with water by Kris Moules and other Spartans players after they defeated Abington Heights 2-1 on Thursday to win the District 2 Class 3A title.

TIMES LEADER STAFF PHOTO\Fred Adams

LEHMAN TWP. – Winning a district championship is a great moment in the career of any high school athlete.

Getting the gold medal in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion in the head coach’s last year makes that win savoring.

Such was the story for Wyoming Valley West on Thursday at Lake-Lehman High School.

Being shut out with just over 16 minutes remaining in the game, the team rallied for 20-year head coach Ted Tsioles in his last season and pulled out a thrilling 2-1 victory to claim the District 2 Class 3A championship.

“In the second half, we knew it could have been the last half of our season and we didn’t want to go down this way,” senior Matt Cecconi said. “The adrenaline was pumping and in the back of my mind I was thinking that we can’t let Teddy down. This is his last year and we wanted to do it for him.”

Tsioles won his eighth District 2 title and first since 2002, as the Spartans advanced to the PIAA Class 3A tournament with the win. The Spartans will be searching for their first win in the state tournament on Tuesday, when they play at Lake-Lehman against the loser of the District 3 championship game between Wilson and Manheim Township. The D3 title game will be played tomorrow.

The Spartans (17-1) were out-played in the first half as the Comets held a 7-1 advantage in shots on goal at the break. Tsioles knew he had to make some changes.

“We had to move up more forwards in the second half,” he said. “We were playing with two forwards against seven defenders and it wasn’t working. So we moved up Jared Castellani and Schmiddy (Joe Schmid) a little more and instead of having two players in the key, we had five. We took some chances that paid off.”

Cecconi, normally a defender, tied the game at 1-1off a throw-in with 16:10 left in the game. He was still in Abington Heights’ territory after a corner kick and he should have been back defending.

“I think it was my laziness that kept me up on that goal,” he said. “Then it came to me and I got it by the keeper.”

Schmid, a freshman, gave the Spartans a 2-1 lead with 11:51 left when he nailed a shot in the right corner of the net from about 25-yards out off a Bill McGuiness assist.

“I was very excited that I got that goal,” Schmid said. “They needed me and I just gave the team an opportunity and put it home.”

The Comets grabbed a 1-0 lead with 33:11 left in the first half when Pat Callahan headed the ball off a corner kick and got it past Spartan goalkeeper Al Clocker. The rest of the game, Clocker made nice saves when given the chances, including two key stops after Cecconi’s goal.

“We had opportunities and Clocker made good saves on a few,” Abington Heights coach Dennis Mishko said. “Had they gone in, and we went up 2-1, we could have pulled away from them. But they had so much momentum going nothing was going to stop them.”

Last year, the Spartans were emotional after a one-goal loss to Delaware Valley in the final. But Tsioles’ last year was why emotions were flying high on Thursday.

“Being his last year, myself and the kids wanted him to win a district championship to go out,” said assistant coach Joe DePasquale. “This is what he wanted at the beginning of the season. The kids want to win a game at states but Teddy winning this is good. I’m glad he’s going out the way he wanted to.”

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