Three Conestoga lacrosse players commit to colleges

Tredyffrin >> Conestoga High School recently held a ceremony for three Pioneers who have committed to playing lacrosse in college. These three athletes are as follows:
– Michael Jameison, Washington and Lee.
– Will Bryan, Holy Cross.
– Will Schnorr, Washington and Lee.

At equity summit, superintendents resolve to revisit old PIAA law

As administrators swapped war stories in State College Tuesday, neither Russell Wren nor Glen Mallon stood up to offer his testimonial to the group. But both athletic directors settled their minds on the same tale.

In the fall of 2014, Springfield, where Mallon is a longtime AD, rode a 12-1 record into a District 1 Class AAA football final against 11-1 Great Valley, where Wren is the AD. The Patriots prevailed that night, 21-0, in a hard-fought game. A week later, when the 12-1 Patriots faced District 12 champ Archbishop Wood, they trailed 30-0 after 12 minutes, on the way to a 44-7 states loss.

“It’s really not fair, and that’s the heart of what the people today were saying, is that this is an unfair situation,” Wren told the “That’s why they’re calling it the Equity Summit. It’s not an equitable situation.”

The Playoff Equity Summit, organized by public schools, drew representatives from more than 150 schools, including five from District 1. As New Castle Area School District Superintendent John Sarandrea told those assembled, more than 375,000 students were represented. The schools sought to organize and ensure their voices are heard in the debate over competitive balance in Pennsylvania. The majority of those voices are saying that the problem is the mixing of boundary and non-boundary schools in postseason competition.

“I think was it very loud and clear from the members that we need to continue the dialogue, and that’s at the heart of this,” said William Hall, the superintendent of the Millcreek School District in Erie County and one of the organizers. “We have to be heard, we feel that we have not been heard, and even at this point, judging from some of the reaction that’s out there, we feel that the door’s being shut on us.”

READ:’s investigation into competitive imbalance in Pennsylvania

Sarandrea and Hall wanted the meeting to crystalize plans that would mobilize the sentiment they’ve harnessed, both via the summit and surveys distributed statewide to public schools. They’ve formed a six-man steering committee of superintendents — which also includes Len Rich of Laurel School District, Stuart Albaugh of Harmony Area, Eric Zelanko of Portage Area and Jason Moore of Central Cambria — and hope to expand the geographical reach into the eastern part of the state.

Among what Hall calls the “action items” generated are a push for an independent legal review of the 1972 law passed by the General Assembly that incorporated private schools into the membership of the previously all-public PIAA. The PIAA’s stance is that the legislature would have to overturn or amend that law to relieve the PIAA’s liability to litigation should it separate championships or classifications based on school type. Many legislators who have spoken to the have shown no inclination to put the issue before the General Assembly.

The outcome of the legislative review will shape how the public schools move forward. But the coalition is united in declaring the playing field between boundary and non-boundary schools unbalanced and that public schools’ needs are not being served. Talk of the “nuclear option,” splintering off from the PIAA, was muted, several attendees said.

“The data they provided was outstanding,” said Upper Merion Superintendent Dr. John Toleno, referencing both survey results and an info sheet also distributed at last week’s PIAA board meeting showing boundary and non-boundary championships since 1972. “… You look at the problem and go, ‘Oh my god. Clearly there’s an issue.’ I’ve seen these things occur. I’ve seen some of our school districts suffer at the hands of some of these transfers and situations for athletic advantages, and I think a change is necessary. How that happens is going to be another interesting piece.”

“When I talk to people in my community and they see this issue, people are just amazed that common sense doesn’t factor in this conversation,” said Mallon, the only representative from a Delaware County school in attendance.

Wren’s perspective is notable for its sympathy with the PIAA’s position, being what he called as caught between a rock and a hard place. Wren has been at Great Valley long enough to remember the introduction of those terms, “boundary” and “non-boundary,” which remain unofficial monikers. An effort to add them to the glossary of the PIAA bylaws in 2011 — refining the current “public” and “non-public” definitions to group charter schools with private schools — was rejected by the board. It casts a long shadow on the efforts to get wholesale changes like separate championships.

But the consensus Tuesday was that rules recently implemented, such as a postseason ban for transferring students in their first seasons and a competition formula to take effect in 2020-21 for football and basketball, are either insufficient band aids or merely defer the problem. The PIAA explicitly voted down the formation of a seventh “super classification” in the success-factor formula last week, which was one of the scenarios that the Equity Summit put forth. Much of the membership favored a plan in which non-boundary schools are divided into two classifications by enrollment, while boundary schools occupy four classifications divvied up by enrollment.

“I think the solution is fairly easy, but it’s a matter of figuring out who’s holding the keys here and why has it not been addressed,” Toleno said. “Hopefully the voices from today will bring it together.”

The public coalition and PIAA approach the problem from diametrically opposed positions. The PIAA line is that harsher prohibitions on transfers will lessen competitive imbalance. Many at the Equity Summit feel that a public/private split will reduce transfers.

Part of the plan is to increase communication.

“We need to bring in the Catholic schools and the charter schools,” Zelanko said. “This is not an ‘us vs. them’ issue. We want equity for every student, whether it’s a boundary school or a non-boundary school.”

Many of those involved view Tuesday as a preliminary step that confirms the discontent isn’t a localized aberration in certain pockets of the state. Now it’s a matter of coalescing that into tangible paths forward.

“First step is to get all parties involved to agree that we need to make a change here,” Toleno said. “There’s enough people who are now talking about this to say, ‘Hey look, we have to come to the table.’ I don’t know why that can’t happen. But these guys did a great job setting this up today, and I’d be surprised that anybody can see that data given out today and say, ‘What is the problem here?’”

“We need to let the dust settle on some of this and then decide when we want to move forward and how,” Hall said. “But it needs to be soon, and we all kind of recognize that we’ve been waiting for a number of years for some significant change. We think it can be done sooner rather than later.”

PIAA approves postseason ban for transfers, to start competition formula in 2020-21

STATE COLLEGE >> What could be a landmark summer for the PIAA’s handling of competitive balance took its most definitive step yet Wednesday.

The PIAA passed two drastic policy changes — a postseason ban for athletes transferring in 10th grade and beyond, and the implementation of a competition formula in basketball and football for the start of the 2020-21 cycle — at its executive board meeting Wednesday at Penn State.

Both rules were passed under suspended protocol, allowing the PIAA to eschew the customary third and final reading of a proposed constitutional amendment.

The transfer guidance is the more pressing addition, to be implemented Aug. 6. The ban on participation in district and state tournaments complements existing language in the constitution, with athletically motivated transfers still banned. However, certain permissible transfers under that rule can be subject to a postseason ban that applies in an athlete’s first season at his or her new school in any sport that he or she competed in at a previous school.

Under the rule, athletes can transfer after spending ninth grade at a school, but any subsequent moves, if deemed non-athletically motivated, would be subject to a transfer ban.

“The people that maybe this will put the brakes on are those people that will go spend two years at a certain school and all of a sudden somebody needs a 152-pounder or a point guard or they might need a new pitcher in baseball and they think they can fill that need,” said Dr. Robert Lombardi, the executive director of the PIAA. “And the other stuff becomes bogus.”

The rule goes into effect Aug. 6. However, the rule refines the language surrounding when a transfer is said to be completed, a pressing issue for this summer’s period of student-athlete movement. A transfer is deemed complete, per the amended language, on the earliest date of either the first day of attending a class at the new school, the first day of practice with a new team, or in the case of a summer transfers the date of enrollment at a new school. For students trying to beat the deadline, that latter one, essentially when paperwork is filed and approved, is most pressing.

The rule includes a hardship waiver, which applies only to skirting the postseason ban but does not conflict with rules dictating whether or not a transfer is licit. The postseason ban can be waived if the athlete demonstrates that “the transfer was necessitated by exceptional and unusual circumstances beyond the reasonable control of the student’s family,” including change of employment, school- or court-administered transfer, military reassignment or a “demonstrable change in income or other financial resources that compels withdrawal from a private school.” Changes for “academic, developmental, spiritual or social reasons” or change of residence from a non-court-mandated family separation — i.e. voluntary changes of schools — will not garner postseason eligibility.

Adjudication of waiver requests remains with district and regional subcommittees. The No. 1 aim of this rule is in deterrence of transfers.

“I think it’s a continued step forward to ensure competitive balance,” District 1 chairman Dr. Mike Barber said. “And that’s what the competition committee was created to do.”

“I think it’s stronger and the goal is to deter,” District 11 chairman Bob Hartman said. “Not to punish or be punitive, but it’s to defer. And when there’s a legitimate hardship, do what you’ve got to do. No one’s trying to stifle legitimate transfers.”

This amendment augments other restrictions on athlete movement implemented earlier this year by the special competition committee. They include a mandatory 21-day sit-out for in-season transfers and denying eligibility to anyone who has already completed 50 percent of the allowable games in a season at another institution. Documentation requirements to disprove athletic motivation have increased, and the PIAA launched an online eligibility portal which allows it to catalog and approve transfer requests with an added degree of transparency.

The rule garnered wide support, including from Sean McAleer, who represents the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.

“We support them. We supported them from Day 1,” he said. “There was a lot of negotiation back and forth. I think this will help eliminate the bad transfers that are out there in the papers, for both public and private. And I think this is a fair way of handling things moving forward.”

The less immediate change is the competition formula, which won’t affect this two-year cycle. This scheme would classify schools by taking into account success points from district and state competition as well as transfers gained.
The plan is preliminary and will require plenty of deliberation. Among the specifics enacted Wednesday were to move forward sans a seventh “super class” and to implement it first in basketball and football.

The PIAA enacted other smaller changes, including recommendations from the track and field steering committee and an increase in the postseason pitch count in baseball to 105 per game (from 100) and 210 in a week (from 200). District and state competition will require a certified pitch counter at games.

The hope is that for now, using the stricter transfer bylaws, the PIAA can tamp down on unrest within its members, particularly public schools dismayed at a larger share of championships going to private schools.

“I don’t think it’ll fix it in everybody’s mind, but it’s an attempt to move down the road to try to handle perceived imbalance,” Lombardi said. “… I think this is a great move to try to look at perceived imbalance, and if there is imbalance, then let’s address it.”

DLN ALL-AREA: Bishop Shanahan’s Jon Heisman reaches apex of storied coaching career

DOWNINGTOWN >> It seems like a no-brainer.

Bishop Shanahan’s Jon Heisman was asked if the 2018 boys’ lacrosse season was his most rewarding as a head coach. But keep in mind that Heisman’s been at this for nearly 30 years at three different schools with a bunch of great tradition in the sport.

In the end, he acknowledged that this spring was a cut above, but it wasn’t just that his Eagles won the PIAA 2A State Championship – the first in program history.

With his youngest son, Connor, playing a key role as a senior starter, Shanahan went 22-1 and captured the District 1 crown and then the state title. Heisman has two older sons in Ethan and Chase, who were accomplished high school lacrosse talents at West Chester Henderson, but neither played for their dad.

“What made it sweeter was winning a state title with my son,” he said. “That was a big reason it was the most rewarding. It was a long time coming, and having a son along for the ride made it that much sweeter.”

The Eagles ended the season on an epic 19-game winning streak. And even though Heisman says that coaching this team was a pleasure, he seemed to make all of the right moves and is a deserving recipient as the Daily Local News’ Coach of the Year for 2018.

“We had the perfect formula where the kids were highly motivated, we had a great senior group for leadership and we got a bunch of underclassmen sprinkled in that were superstars like Gabe (Goforth) and Connor (Whalen),” Heisman said.

“As coaches, we really just kind of managed this group. Every kid just seemed to blossom. It was one of those years where we as coaches didn’t have to say much.”

Shanahan pummeled most opposing teams this season by 10-plus goals on average. And even in the PIAA Tournament, the Eagles outscored four opponents by a combined 52-24, including a 13-5 triumph over Strath Haven in the state final. The only blemish was a taut 6-3 early season setback at Avon Grove, the defending 3A State Champions.

“I thought it was a catalyst to show our kids that they could believe,” Heisman pointed out. “We outshot Avon Grove in that game. Even though we didn’t win that game, it gave us confidence that we could play with the big dogs.”

As a smaller school competing in one of the better leagues in the state, Bishop Shanahan as a program is now used to pushing itself above and beyond, and Heisman has been the guiding the way since 2000.

“We have to show up every day,” he said. “Our kids understand it’s going to be a battle royale every time out. That certainly makes you better and keeps you motivated.

“It was a joy showing up for practice every day, not that it isn’t anyway. It was just extra special this season. Our players looked forward to practice and no one missed our in-season lifting sessions. It all just seemed to gel.”

DLN ALL-AREA: Malvern Prep’s Jack Traynor stands out in talent-rich Chester County

MALVERN >> Growing up as the middle child in a family of five rambunctious boys, Jack Traynor came about is competitive nature very early in life.

Whether it was vying for food or affection, or later on trying to keep up with older siblings in everything from video games to ping pong, Traynor quickly developed into a fierce competitor. And it’s now paying off on the lacrosse field.

“I hate to lose,” said Traynor, a native of Downingtown. “When your teammates see that you are a guy who can’t stand to lose, it propels them to think the same way.”

That inner drive, combined with off-the-chart athleticism and an impressive skill set, Traynor led Malvern Prep to a championship season this spring. His head coach, John McEVoy, says that Traynor became one of the best high school athletes and players at any position in the country.

“Jack is such a competitive guy and he hates to lose,” McEvoy said. “He goes out there, he wants to be around the ball all the time, and he wants to make a great play every time he is out there. And he’s always been that way.

“The great players – the ones college coaches all want – are the ones who are not only tough on the field, but they are high achievers. They want to win at everything they do, whether it’s ping-pong, pickup basketball, dodge-ball or whatever. That’s what he has.”

The 2018 Daily Local News Player of the Year, Traynor was a standout senior on a star-studded Malvern squad that went 15-6 despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and capped it off by dethroning Haverford for the Inter-Ac title.

“It was a rocky season,” said Traynor, who finished with 55 goals and 18 assists. “We had our ups and downs, but we were playing our best lacrosse at the end of the season.”

A team MVP and two-time All-State and All-American selection, Traynor has signed for a full-ride athletic scholarship to Penn State.

“He is as good as any attack man I’ve had before. We shaped a lot of what we do around him and it will take a lot of hard work to replace him,” McEvoy said.

“It feels good to get recognition, but when it comes down to it, all I was concerned about was winning the Inter-Ac,” Traynor added. “That’s all I wanted.”

A four-year varsity player, Traynor headed into the May 21st showdown having lost nine of 10 to the Fords, including a 12-9 squeaker earlier in the regular season. But with Traynor leading the way with four goals, Malvern prevailed 17-13.

“(Haverford) had the upper hand the last four years, but luckily we were able to get that last one,” Traynor said. “You could tell that things were different at the end of the season – we just wanted it so bad.”

Like all Inter-Ac schools, Malvern is not eligible to compete for a state championship. But for a point of reference, the Friars easily topped Avon Grove – the 2017 PIAA 3A State Champs – as well as La Salle, a finalist in 2018.

“I’d like to see the Inter-Ac champion play the PIAA champion,” Traynor said. “We would definitely contend (for a state title) and we would have a strong chance to win if we got a chance.”

This season Traynor had no trouble distinguishing himself on an attack that also included standouts like Scott White (Ohio State signee), Quinn McCahon (Notre Dame), Seamus Glynn (Penn State), Jordan Donaghy (Penn State) and Matt Hilburn (Boston University).

“With the offense at Malvern, we pride ourselves that it’s all six guys, moving and making their teammates better,” he explained.

And it’s not like Traynor was able to sneak up on anybody. His oldest brother, Tripp (Malvern class of 2014) went on to be a captain at Penn State. He also played two high school seasons with brother A.J., who is a rising junior at Loyola, Md. And his younger brothers, Matt and Kyle, are up and coming standouts at Malvern.

“Everything we do, we are always pushing each other and competing,” Jack said of his brothers.

Part of a promising class of freshmen, Traynor was one of five to make the Malvern Prep varsity back in 2015.

“That’s really uncommon,” McEvoy pointed out.

“I put Jack out there as a freshman. And at age 14, he was a tiny guy going against some of the best players in the country. But he never backed down.

“I guess he didn’t know any better, and more times than not, he came away impressively. When you see that from a freshman, you know he’s got those intangibles you can’t ignore.”

But at 5-foot-5, 140-pounds, Traynor was often out-muscled by larger foes. With a lot of work in the weight room, he eventually bulked up to his current 5-9, 175.

“I had the skill but I didn’t have the strength. And if you are not strong enough, you will just get bullied,” he said.

“Jack has a good frame and he’s strong,” McEvoy added. “He’s worked very hard in the weight room.

“So during the off-season when the kids are running or in the weight room, he is there with a purpose: to get better at all times. That’s something that separates him from a lot of guys.”

Noted for his versatility and speed on the field, it’s not surprising that Traynor described himself as ‘a grinder.’

“I pride myself on doing the little things like ground balls, riding – things that not everybody wants to do, but things that make you a better player,” he said.

Shanahan poised to capture first-ever state crown in boys’ lacrosse

DOWNINGTOWN – Jon Heisman is a longtime health and physical education teacher at West Chester East, and he drives past Zimmerman Stadium on his way to and from work all the time. On Saturday, it will be the site for, perhaps, the biggest contest of his coaching career.

Heisman moonlights as the head boys’ lacrosse coach at Bishop Shanahan. At 4:30 p.m., his Eagles will take on Strath Haven for the PIAA 2A State Championship.

“I’ve been at East for 33 years,” Heisman said. “We know the field. I was the head coach there for six years. Our kids are familiar, but it really doesn’t matter.

“We went out and played two hours away at Cumberland Valley on Tuesday in the semis, so we will show up wherever we have to play. We will be ready.”

During his 29 seasons as a head coach at three schools, Heisman has guided a bunch of excellent players and has experienced a lot of success. In fact, Heisman won a PSLA state crown in 1992 as the head coach at Springfield (Delco), and was an assistant when West Chester East did it in 1988.

But he’s never had a deeper, more talented roster than he has right now.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride of excellence from this team,” he said. “They haven’t faltered at any point, and they are mature no matter what happens. It’s been a group that can self-motivate themselves.

“They have been a coach’s dream, to tell you the truth.”

The Eagles have strength at all levels. Attacker Kyle Gucwa, midfielder Gabe Goforth and defender Tom Ford are all first team all-leaguers, and all three have signed to play at the Division I level in college. And then you add to the mix All-Ches-Mont picks Connor Whalen (long-stick midfielder), Tyler Kingsburg (face off specialist) and Nic Pezone (goaltender), and Shanahan is loaded.

In 22 contests this spring, the Eagles only blemish came on the road against Avon Grove, the defending 3A state champs. And the score was 3-3 midway through the fourth quarter. Since then, Shanahan (21-1 overall) has reeled off 18 wins in a row.

“This has been coming for the last two or three years,” Heisman said. “We have a group of upperclassmen who that have played early in their (high school) careers together and have been through a lot. It’s a tight-knit group.

“Our strength is with our leadership, with guys who have been through the wars. It’s just been one of those years.”

With Maryland recruits like Goforth and Whalen, and Manhattan-bound Gucwa, the Eagles are skilled and explosive. They are averaging 16 goals per contest in the PIAA Tournament.

But Shanahan is built on defense. The squad allows an average of 3.6 goals against and has held 10 opponents to three or fewer goals this season.

“Our defense has carried the torch,” Heisman explained. “The three defensive guys are seniors (Ford, Tristan Lynch and Zane Monroe), and our goalie has been incredible. But it’s a total team defensive package.

“It’s been our bread and butter, and we’ve beat some good teams by a lot of goals.”

The title game is a postseason rematch. The Eagles topped Strath Haven 9-6 in the District 1 semifinals on May 22 in a match held at Shanahan.

“It was a dogfight,” Heisman acknowledged. “It could have gone either way, so we know we will have our hands full. We just need to make sure our kids stay even keeled and even tempered. We’re hoping it all comes together on Saturday for us.”

Since the first meeting, the Panthers have gone 4-0, including a pair of recent nail-biters: a 12-9 triumph over arch-rival Springfield in the quarterfinals, and a wild 12-11 overtime marathon over Mars in the semis.   

“Strath Haven is definitely dangerous,” Heisman warned. “They pressure you all over the place and they are very athletic. They have one of the best midfielders in the state in Jeff Conner. He’s going to Virginia. He can win games on his own.”

The Bishop Shanahan program has never ventured this deep into the state playoffs, but the Eagles have been hardened over the years competing regularly against bigger schools prior to the PIAA splitting into two classes (3A and 2A) in 2017.

“We’ve been mighty close,” Heisman pointed out. “If you look back, we’ve been through some wars before we split into 2A and 3A. We lost first round games to La Salle and St. Joe’s Prep and both of those ended up going all the way to the finals.

“We’ve had the talent and we’ve had the kids, so to finally get to this point it’s been magic. We are hoping we have the right formula this year.”

Conestoga rides fast start and topples Avon Grove to reach semfinals

WEST CHESTER – Saturday marked the fourth postseason boys’ lacrosse showdown between Conestoga and Avon Grove in the last 373 days. And in the previous three meetings, these two state powers staged razor close battles that included a total of five overtime periods, including three OTs just 11 days earlier.

But on Saturday, in the quarterfinals of the PIAA 3A Tournament at West Chester Henderson, the Pioneers played with a chip on their collective shoulders, and rode it to a great start and, ultimately, a convincing 12-6 triumph over the Red Devils.

“(Avon Grove) ended our season last year, and we are really salty about it,” said ’Stoga goaltender Scott MacMillan. “We came out 100 percent.

“I had a good feeling about this game.”

Conestoga (19-5 overall) nipped Avon Grove in the district semifinals on May 22nd, but revenge was actually on the Pioneers’ side. A year ago, the Devils topped the Pioneers in the state final.

“Our guys were really excited about playing (Avon Grove) again, especially in light of what happened last season,” ’Stoga head coach Brody Bush acknowledged. “Losing to them in the state final and beating them in districts (in 2017), we didn’t want that to happen again. I think our guys were extra motivated and hungry.”

The Pioneers will take on the La Salle-Parkland winner on Tuesday for the right to advance to the state title game next weekend. The Devils season ends at 18-3, and their chance to defend the state title is extinguished.

“I’m proud of our guys,” said Avon Grove head coach Eric Jackson. “They fought until the end. I love this team. It was a great group of guys to be with.”

At one point early in the second half, Conestoga was ahead 7-1 and in total command. Then the Red Devils made it interesting with a gutsy rally that cut the margin to two. And then there was a 90-minute weather delay with 3:23 left in the third quarter with the Pioneers up 8-5.

“I knew that was coming and so did our guys,” Bush said of the pushback. “Avon Grove is such a talented team and well coached.

“It was nice having the lead going into the break.”

Less than a minute after the restart, ’Stoga’s Tate Kienzle upped the margin to four, and then James Reilly – who left the game for a while after feeling nauseous – scored to make it 10-5 with 9:27 to go. In between, Avon Grove’s Zach Augustine appeared to score, but it was disallowed.

“I’ll have to watch the tape on that one,” Jackson said. “(The officials) called us off sides, which I don’t know how.”

The Devils did get a goal from Scooter Whiteside with just over five minutes remaining, but Avon Grove lost its composure a bit, and gave up two late goals while trying to kill off separate penalties.

“We had our mind set on winning this game,” said senior Kent Hjelm, who finished with three goals.

“We just played really good team lacrosse,” Bush added. “I am kind of surprised. I thought it would be closer.”

Already comfortably ahead at the half, Will Schnorr added a goal and an assist to put ’Stoga up 7-1 following a pair of faceoff wins by junior P.J. Hewitt, who was filling in for Reilly. But less than a minute later, the Devils woke up on a critical goal by Jason Lengel.

“We knew a lead that big wouldn’t hold for too long,” Hjelm said.

It wrestled away the momentum and Avon Grove began to claw their way back into the contest thanks to a 4-0 rally on additional goals by Whiteside and a couple by Jake Smith.

“Our kids never quit,” Jackson said. “That’s a testament to them.”

Hjelm halted the run, however, with his second goal of the game to make it 8-5. And then two minutes later, play was halted for rain and lightning.

“I thought it was going to hurt us, but it was fine,” said MacMillan, who finished with 13 saves.

“We had some momentum going, but we talk all the time about not worrying about things that are out of our control,” Jackson added. “That was certainly one of them.”

In the first half alone, Avon Grove’s Nate Hammond was a dominant 7-1 on face offs against Reilly, but the Devils were unable to take advantage.

“(Conestoga) came out much hotter than us,” Jackson said. “We came out flat and not as aggressive as we normally are.”

When Smith scored early in the second quarter to slice the Conestoga lead to 2-1, it looked like the start of another classic battle. But the Pioneers finished the half with three straight goals to take a commanding 5-1 lead into the break. And ’Stoga generated a 13-8 shots on goal edge.

“Our defense played out of their minds,” Hjelm said. “When they play like that it gives the offense energy.”

Conestoga 12, Avon Grove 6

Conestoga                            1 4 4 3 — 12

Avon Grove                         0 1 4 1 — 6

Conestoga goals: Hjelm 3, Braendel, Reilly, Kienzle, Schnorr, Madden, Cost, Cara, Walton, Murphy.

Avon Grove goals: Whiteside 2, Smith 3, Lengel.

Goalie saves: MacMillan (C) 13; Spencer (AG) 12.

Heisman, Gucwa lead Bishop Shanahan into first state semifinal in school history

REIFFTON >> Jon Heisman admitted he didn’t have to say anything to Bishop Shanahan heading into halftime Saturday, especially after the Eagles gave up a two-goal lead in the final 1:44 of the first half.

Heisman knew the mentality of his team as they played in the first state quarterfinal game in school history. Of course, it didn’t hurt having Connor Heisman and Kyle Gucwa on the attack to take over the game, either.

“Those two guys have been playing together for three years now,” Heisman said. They’re excellent and they took care of business. I don’t know how many points they had, but they always do (take care of business).

Heisman finished with four goals and two assists while Gucwa had three goals and two assists as Bishop Shanahan scored five unanswered goals in the third quarter in a 13-7 win over Allentown Central Catholic at Don Thomas Stadium in Reiffton Saturday.

The win moved the Eagles (20-1) to the PIAA Class 2A semifinals, the first such appearance in school history. Bishop Shanahan will face York Catholic, a 15-10 winner over Crestwood, on Tuesday with the date and time to be determined. Allentown Central Catholic ends its season at 17-6.

Gucwa had two goals and two assists in that five-goal third quarter, sparking the Shanahan offense as the Eagles used the 10-minute halftime advantage to pull away with a dominant quarter out of the break.

The Eagles had 22 shots in the first half, but changed up the strategy a bit in the third thanks to a quick change.

“We were told to shoot low,” Gucwa said. “We were shooting high the whole first half, so that was one thing. We needed to hustle as well. We got beat on the 50-50 ground balls quite a bit.”

Andrew Smyth gave Shanahan the lead for good with 9:21 left in the third to make it 6-5 before Gucwa and Heisman took over the game. Gucwa had his first of four points in the quarter assisting Gabe Goforth on his second goal of the afternoon to make it 7-5 with 8:07 left in the quarter.

Heisman and Gucwa pulled off their own version of the bash brothers in a 20-second span to give the Eagles control of the game. Heisman scored off a feed from Gucwa with 6:21 left in the fire to make it 8-5, then Heisman returned the favor by setting up Gucwa with his first goal of the game to make it 9-5.

Gucwa later scored with 3:35 left in the third to cap off the dominant quarter. The Eagles went from a 5-5 halftime tie to control the game in a six-minute third quarter stretch that determined the outcome.

The Eagles spent four years trying to get over the hump of the first round of the state playoffs. They finally accomplished that task in 2018.

Shanahan is just two wins away from that elusive state title Heisman has been coveting since he was hired by the school in 2010. The head coach once said that’s his ultimate goal for the program.

The Eagles have arrived in the PIAA final four and they’re far from done.

“We’re excited, but we have two more steps to go,” Heisman said. “We’re not going to be satisfied with anything less than a state title. Honestly, we have our work cut out for us.”


Bishop Shahahan 13, Allentown Central Catholic 7

Allentown Central Catholic 2  – 3 – 0 – 2 — 7

Bishop Shanahan 2 – 3 – 5 – 3 — 13

Allentown CC goals: Ike 2, Marker 2, Gloss, Glemser, Pasquale

Bishop Shanahan goals: Heisman 4, Gucwa 3, Tagliaferri 2, Goforth 2, Smyth, Rafferty.

Saves: Barr (ACC) 11; Pezone (BS) 11.

District champ Shanahan shuts down South Western in state opener

Lower Providence >> At halftime of Bishop Shanahan’s PIAA 2A state tourney opener against District 5 fifth-place finisher South Western, the newly-crowned District 1 champs were winning by a 7-3 score. And they were disappointed.
“At halftime, the score wasn’t really close, but we were disappointed because we knew we could play a lot better,” said Shanahan sophomore midfielder Gabe Goforth. “We knew we were going to come out firing in the third quarter. In the second half, we started getting the tempo going a little faster, and we just started finishing on our shots. Their goalie [Nick Race, 14 saves] played outstanding in the first half, I’ve got to hand it to him, but I think he had to have gotten a little worn down by the second half.”
In the second half, Shanahan (19-1) routed South Western 11-1 en route to an 18-4 win, getting four goals each from Goforth, senior attack Connor Heisman and junior attack Bryan Rafferty. The Eagles advance to the PIAA state quarterfinals, where they will play District 11 champion Allentown Central Catholic Saturday at a time and place to be determined.
Shanahan head coach Jon Heisman said, “In the beginning we were a little sluggish and their goalie kept them in the game in the first half. Their faceoff guy played well in the first half, and they played tough.
“I just think in the second half we took over with our athleticism, and our depth. We ran them into the ground. It was a little warm out there, and we’ve got a lot of kids who can do things. So we’re well-balanced, and we picked it up in the second half.”
Tuesday’s slow start and fast finish by the Eagles was similar to the District 1 championship game five days earlier, in which Shanahan held a 3-2 lead in the first quarter, then exploded for an 11-2 advantage the rest of the way.
Goforth, a University of Maryland commit, said, “As the game went on today and we started getting into our groove, we started going a little faster, just like we did in the district championship game.”
In the first six minutes of the third quarter, the Eagles ripped off a 5-0 run, starting with a goal from Kyle Gucwa (two goals, three assists), a Michael Tagliaferri goal after a sharp pass from Rafferty, unassisted goals from Goforth (after a long run down the right side) and Gucwa, then a score from Heisman, who fired it in from the left side after a good pass from junior Tyler Kingsbury. With 5:52 to play in the third quarter, Shanahan led, 12-3.
Rafferty scored three goals in the first 93 seconds of the fourth quarter (two of them assisted by Heisman) to give the Eagles a 16-4 lead with 10:27 to play.
The final 16 minutes of the game, South Western was held scoreless.
“We shut them down on defense in the second half, and we started winning faceoffs,” said the Shanahan coach.
Kingsbury won 16 of 26 faceoffs Tuesday, while junior goalie Nicolas Pezone racked up six saves.
Seven different Eagles scored goals Tuesday, including senior midfielder Dan Bathon (who scored the opening tally) and sophomore midfielder Jesse Lynch. Six Shanahan players dished out assists, including senior defender Thomas Ford and junior midfielder Vincent Riccardo.
Jon Heisman said, “Everybody contributed today, it was a workmanlike effort. This is a special group of players, and we’re looking forward to advancing.”

Bishop Shanahan 18, South Western 4
South Western 1 2 1 0 – 4
Bishop Shanahan 3 4 6 5 – 18
South Western goals: Quinn 3, Wolfe.
Bishop Shanahan goals: Bathon, Rafferty 4, K. Gucwa 2, Tagliaferri 2, Goforth 4, Heisman 4, J. Lynch.
Goalie saves: Race (SW) 14, Pezone (BS) 6.

Conestoga win sets stage for rematch with Avon Grove

EAST MARLBOROUGH – The boys’ lacrosse rematch that all of District 1 wanted to see is now going to happen on Saturday, but before it became a certainty, Conestoga had to deal with a stubborn Wilson West Lawn squad in the first round of the PIAA 3A Tournament.

And for a while on Tuesday at Unionville, things didn’t go smoothly for the Pioneers. But thanks to a second quarter scoring outburst from Kent Hjelm, and some solid defense thrown in, ’Stoga finished strong to upend the Bulldogs 12-7 and set the stage for another clash with Avon Grove.

“It seems like we always play (Avon Grove) in the playoffs,” said Conestoga midfielder Tate Kienzle.

Saturday’s quarterfinal between the Pioneers and the Red Devils will be the fourth high stakes postseason collision in this burgeoning rivalry in the last 12 months. A week earlier, ’Stoga eked out a three overtime thriller in the District 1 semifinal. In 2017, it was a 1-1 split, but Avon Grove prevailed in the state title game.

“I think there is mutual respect between the two programs,” Pioneers’ head coach Brody Bush said. “It is going to come down to some of the little nuances of the game rather than just X’s and O’s.

“Every time we play, (Avon Grove) brings its best game. The have great players all over the field and our boys are going to have to be ready to match the intensity that they are going to bring.”

The slow start on Tuesday, however, may have been the result of a hangover more than from looking ahead. That’s because Conestoga was upset last weekend by Central League foe Garnet Valley in the district final.

“We had to get it out of our system, but then again we are angry from that game and we used it as fuel,” Kienzle pointed out. “It comes down to fundamentals and all of the little stuff adds up.”

Even though the Pioneers scored three of the first four goals against West Lawn, who finished third in the District 3 Tournament, the score was deadlocked at 4-4 after one period.

“I think we were a little overconfident in the beginning and we extended out too much,” Bush explained. “But we learned as the game went on.”

It all turned around in the second quarter, which belonged to Hjelm, who suffered a midseason broken left hand and missed a total of five games. He returned for the postseason, but the senior attacker was unable to return to mid-season form until scoring a natural hat-trick and finishing with four goals in the period. It put the Pioneers (18-5 overall) ahead for good.

“Kent’s hand is finally starting to feel better,” Bush said.

“I feel 100 percent,” Hjelm added. “It took a couple games to get used to wearing a protective brace under my glove but now I don’t feel it anymore.

“In the first quarter, I hit a pipe and in the last few games I’ve had trouble finishing. I’ve been working hard on cashing in on opportunities, so it felt good to finally get that reward.”

Lanky junior Will Schnorr opened the second half with one of his four goals on the day and Brendan Murphy added another – both on assists from Kienzle – to make it 10-5. But the Bulldogs (17-4 overall) fought back and cut it to 10-7 heading into the fourth.

With considerable help from goaltender Scott MacMillan, however, the ’Stoga defense clamped down the rest of the way. And the Pioneers closed it out with two goals in the final two minutes.

“At this point, anyone can win,” Bush said. “(West Lawn) moves the ball well and they are a well-coached team.

“I thought we had a really good second and fourth quarter. That was enough for us to win this game.”

Kienzle finished with two goals and two assists, and the hero from the first clash with Avon Grove – senior Nick Braendel – had two goals. James Reilly was 11 of 14 in face offs in the first half before slightly tweaking an ankle in the second. But he is expected to play against the Devils, who had little trouble with St. Joseph’s Prep earlier on Tuesday.

The time and location of the rematch has not yet been announced.

“That was the most tiring game of the season,” Hjelm said of the 9-8 marathon win against Avon Grove on May 22. “They have a lot of athletes, and we do too. That game is always a lot of fun.

“Our history with (Avon Grove) is so rich and we want to keep competing with them and hopefully overcome them again. Maybe this time it will only take four quarters.”

Conestoga 12, Wilson West Lawn 7

Wilson West Lawn             4 1 2 0 — 7

Conestoga                            4 4 2 2 — 12

Wilson West Lawn goals: Reinhart, Grayson, Marrell, Horst 2, Magalotti 2.

Conestoga goals: Braendel 2, Murphy, Schnorr 4, Hjelm 4, Reilly.

Goalie saves: Cox (W) 8; MacMillan (C) 10.