Rewards were plentiful for the Dallas boys soccer team on the final night of the regular season.
Dallas won the Cleary Cup by taking its annual rivalry game, clinched the Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 title outright and pronounced itself ready for the upcoming District 2 playoffs with a convincing 6-0 romp over host Lake-Lehman Tuesday night.
The win was part of a championship sweep by the Dallas soccer programs. The boys went 13-1-1 in the WVC to finish first out of six teams in Division 1 and post the best record in the 17-team league. The girls went 14-1 to win the league title with all 16 teams competing against each other as one group.
Both teams will be high seeds in the District 2 Class AA tournaments. Play-in games are scheduled for Tuesday with quarterfinal games – where Dallas will play for the first time - set for Thursday through Saturday. The playoffs proceed toward Oct. 31 championship games.
Dallas looked ready with a strong late-season run as the team got healthy, capped by the rout of Lake-Lehman in its first game after losing standout defender Brandon Scharff for the remainder of the season with a broken arm.
The same depth that got the Mountaineers through a series of early injuries will be a factor in playing without Scharff.
“We just got everyone back and then one of our best players goes out,” said coach Chris Scharff, Brandon’s father. “We still have a good team, obviously. Fortunately, we always have four or five players off the bench that are good enough to play.
“We’re fortunate that I have up to seven different players who could start for most other programs. They’re not bad players; we just can’t fit them all on the field. They’re very good players who just don’t get as much playing time.”
Brandon Scharff was injured Oct. 11 when Dallas all but locked up the title with an impressive 3-0 victory over second-place Coughlin. Nate Wood, Zach Goodwin and A.J. Nardone scored goals in the win while Blake Williams (two saves) and Rory Burns Mullin (three saves) turned in their usual strong play as a goalkeeping combination with the shutout.
“We’re playing well the second half of the season,” coach Scharff said. “About halfway through the season, we got our entire team back from injuries and it showed the last six or seven games.”
That strong play continued into Tuesday night.
Nardone scored less than four minutes into the game, then added the final two goals in the second half. Already the WVC’s overall scoring leader, he took over as goal-scoring leader with 22 following the hat trick.
While Nardone has thrived as the league scoring leader, Scharff pointed out that there are other key players who made major contributions to the team’s fourth straight division title.
“A.J.’s fortunate to be the forward on our team because we have five or six other guys who could play forward and score all the goals, too,” Scharff said. “But, you have to fill all the spots. A.J. is a force up there, but we have other players who could play there who play other positions to help the team.
“Nate Wood and Matt Saba are forwards, but they play center mid for us because we need it. Zach Goodwin and my son play defense because we need it.”
Wood and Saba are second and third on the team in scoring. Wood had a goal and two assists against Lake-Lehman, giving him 13 goals and allowing him to pass Nardone for the team assist lead with eight. Saba had a goal, giving him nine goals and five assists on the season.
The Lake-Lehman game was also the fourth time in the latter part of the season that Dallas played on artificial turf. The Mountaineers looked good in those situations, which could be helpful as the playoffs progress and all games eventually wind up on that surface.
“You’re able to spread a team out and pass because there is more space,” Scharff said. “And, every bounce is true. When you score goals on turf, it’s usually because of a true bounce.
“A lot of teams try to just pack it in on us, but it’s very hard to do that on the larger turf fields.”
The Dallas girls clinched their title with Monday’s 8-0 win over Tunkhannock.
Talia Szatkowski, the team scoring leader and one of the top scorers in the WVC, had a hat trick and an assist. Ruby Mattson and Danielle Walsh added two goals each.