North Pocono celebrates a pre-season tournament title
Four years had passed since the North Pocono boys soccer team last raised the trophy at the annual Jamie Kotula Kick-Off Classic.
That night, the Trojans successfully defended their tournament title by defeating Lakeland 4-2.
Overtime games that day pushed back the championship match and due to an issue with the timers on the field lights, they went off during the final game, causing yet a further delay.
Despite a full change in coaching staff … and the fact that no one currently on the team now was a member then … the legend of that night seemed to stir when kick-off was once again delayed due to games that ran long.
The ninth installment of the tournament got underway on Saturday, August 31.
The event is held each year in memory of Jamie Kotula, an Elmhurst resident and student at Holy Cross whose life was tragically cut short in an automobile accident back in 2011.
For almost a decade now, the eponymous foundation created in Jamie’s honor has acted as a community chest.
Its members raise funds through donations, such as the enormous basket raffle held the same weekend as the tournament. They also award scholarships to local students at the various schools which play in the tournament.
There is also a litany of other charities and organizations that fit the foundation’s motto: “Faith, Family, Friends.”
The boys bracket’s first game saw Holy Redeemer narrowly edge out Western Wayne 1-0. Later that afternoon, a lone goal by North Pocono sophomore Cayden Lougee in the seventh minute of the match was all they needed to get ahead of Valley View.
The Cougars put up fierce resistance through the remainder of the contest but could not find the net.
Trojan keeper Brooks Hanna, a junior, made six saves to help keep NP in the lead and hold on for the win.
“We got a little conservative at the end and added an extra defender,” said Head Coach Graig Arcurie. “We wanted to make sure we got out of the first round with a win.”
The next morning, the Trojans faced the Royals.
Despite their sluggish performance against the Wildcats, Redeemer came out stronger than expected in the semifinals.
Things went scoreless through the first 40 minutes. However, their offense was no match for the Trojans.
Hanna posted another clean sheet while junior Taggert Loescher shook the net for North Pocono first in the forty-fifth minute.
Senior Nate Kozik added insurance, driving the ball in off a free kick at 47:35.
Loescher struck again at the 66-minute mark and North Pocono pressed on to a 3-0 victory.
“I thought we played better against Holy Redeemer,” Arcurie said.
“We were more aggressive, and we’ve gotten better at playing aggressively.”
Tournament rules allowed the team with the lowest goals against, that did not win, to grab the open bracket on Sunday and try to play back.
View earned a spot and defeated Holy Cross in overtime. That set them up to face North Pocono once more.
“Valley View is the other toughest team in the tournament, and they toughened up for the second game with us,” said Coach Arcurie
“We both played a tough, hard 80 minutes. We were both gassed by the end, but all the conditioning we did all summer showed it was worth it. We know now we can go non-stop for a full game.
A goal by sophomore Corbin Lankford 5:40 into the match was the only thing except the breeze that shook either net for the rest of the night.
A few forays on the pitch raised the hairs on everyone’s necks at times, but one team’s attacks were quelled, and the ensuing counterstrike was dampened as well.
This went on through full time making the match exciting and entertaining.
While a few calls were questionable, nothing affected the outcome and with time expired, North Pocono reclaimed the title after a four-year drought.
“It was an extra fun weekend,” said Arcurie.
“Win or lose the Kotula is a good time and we play for a good cause. Our kids went there with a purpose and they met it.”
More in Store
The Cougars and Trojans clashed once more two days later in their opening Lackawanna Soccer League match.
This time, Valley View prevailed 1-0.
The fourth, but not necessarily final chapter in this saga will be penned on September 24 when Valley View visits North Pocono.
Kick-off for that is slated for 5:30 p.m. at the stadium.
If there’s going to be a rivalry in the league this year, this is it. Who knows what the next bout will bring, but chances are it will be exciting!