Eight minutes into its first Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association lacrosse final, Allentown Central Catholic found themselves without a goal and trailing in the biggest game in recent program history.
Then the ball found defenseman NLF No. No. 30 ’22 Chuck Kuczynski, defense/LSM, Allentown Central Catholic (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH.
Kuczynski found the top corner of the net and the Vikings were on their way to capping off a historic season – earning a 14-5 championship win.
The goal by Kuczynski, a Syracuse commit, was his first of his three on the day. It kickstarted an eight-goal run by Allentown Central Catholic, paving the way for a decisive win over Mars Area High School in the PIAA Class 2A final at West Chester East’s Zimmerman Stadium.
The win is significant for the growth of lacrosse in Pennsylvania. The final was the first in the decade and a half of PIAA’s oversight of lacrosse not to feature a team from the greater Philadelphia area. Allentown Central Catholic (23-1) is the first team from District 11 (Allentown/Lehigh Valley) to play for a state title and to win it, boys or girls. It did so by beating Mars (22-1), the first team from District 7 (greater Pittsburgh) to reach a final. In a state which is dominated by Philadelphia high schools, the breakthrough is one of major significance.
Kuczynski made a little history for himself, too. His hat trick was his first since eighth grade, he told NLFRankings.
“I just wanted to get the team up,” Kuczynski said. “We’re a great team. We rebounded really well, and I just decided to let it fly and it went in. After that, our team just came together and we really played a full game and shut them down immediately.”
The first goal, at 4:03 of the first quarter, came in transition, Kuczynski not just whipping home a hard shot but placing it top corner. He did the same midway through the second quarter to make it 6-1, a lead that would stretch to 8-1 before Mars claimed one back. In all, Kuczynski’s first goal set off a run of eight straight ACC tallies in 10:57, a staggering blow from which the Fighting Planets never recovered.
Kuczynski switched it up a little on the third goal, driving to the cage, cutting across the crease from right to left, and underhanding a shot through the wickets of Mars goalie Jacob Gareis.
“It’s not easy, but I figured I’d throw the goalie off a little bit,” Kuczynski said. “I don’t think he was expecting that, and I ended up five-holing him, so I was happy with that.”
Allentown Central Catholic isn’t short on blue-chippers, but Saturday’s performance showed they are much more than just a few top-line stars. Yes, they got three goals from Jack McGorry (Saint Josephs) and two from middie Tyler Schifko (Utah). But junior Ben Scandone also added a hat trick and an assist. Sean Farrell had a goal and an assist. Faceoff man Derek Lystad won 13-of-23 draws, but that figure was 13-for-19 when ACC took the foot off the gas in the fourth quarter. And goalie Davis Ike was outstanding with 13 saves.
“It’s not just one guy at all,” McGorry said. “That’s what happened all throughout the season – I’d get shut off a game, Tyler would get shut off a game. But we have six other players that can step up and do their job. And everyone did their job today, and that’s why we came out on top today.”
Mars could never find their rhythm in the contest. Offensive contributions came from Nicholas Crowley and Wesley Scurci, who both scored twice, while middie Austin Cote, a junior Loyola commit, scored once.
The final score somewhat overshadows what Mars accomplished this season, but their run to a state final is just as potent a statement about the development of lacrosse in Western Pennsylvania.
“It just makes them better all around,” Cote said of the experience. “They become better lacrosse players, and it helps them understand that at the next level, you’re not going to be playing guys that we’re playing some of the teams down there. These kids are good, they’re the real deal.”
Only one team left Saturday with the instant appreciation of that historic journey. At both ends of the field, Kuczynski made sure it was his Vikings.
“It means the world,” McGorry said. “It means the world to me, and I know it means the world to this team. I’ve been dreaming of this ever since I started playing lacrosse. I know a lot of these guys have, and now that we’ve accomplished it, it feels amazing.”
History for Lehigh Valley lacrosse! Allentown Central Catholic defeats Mars Area 14-5 in the PIAA 2A final. It's D-11's first state title. It's the second state title this year for @ACCHSVikings after a boys hoops triumph this winter. pic.twitter.com/swQyg0C0wj
— Kyle Craig (@KyleCraigSports) June 12, 2021
Allentown Central Catholic – Mars Standouts
NLF No. 30 ’22 Chuck Kuczynski, defense, ’22, Allentown Central Catholic (Syracuse, Big 4 HHH)
What’s left to be said about Kuczynski? He would’ve had a great game Saturday on the basis of his defense alone. The most intriguing aspect for him is if he’ll be an LSM or close defender at the next level. He’s definitely got the athleticism and offensive threat to be the former, but he’s also got the defensive bona fides to do that job. Pretty good problem to have.
Davis Ike, goalie, ’21, Allentown Central Catholic (Uncommitted, Dukes)
The uncommitted label will not last long. Ike was phenomenal all tournament long, and he was outstanding against Saturday with 14 saves. You’re not going to beat the 5-11 goalie high. He moves well on low shots. He’s quick out of the cage to cover and is a very good passer on clears. If it was a closer game, Ike would’ve had a case to be the player of the game.
Ben Scandone, attack, ’22 Allentown Central Catholic (Uncommitted, Dukes)
Jack McGorry gets all the glory, and rightfully so. But Scandone was just as pivotal Saturday when McGorry and Tyler Schifko were keyed on. He had three goals and an assist. Like the rest of the ACC attack, he possesses an outstanding shot. He’s a low-to-the-ground playmaker who can pass, shoot and dodge.
Austin Cote, midfield, ’22, Mars (Loyola, True National)
It wasn’t the day that Cote and his fellow Fighting Planets wanted, and he wasn’t alone in being unable to solve Ike. But you can see the potential in Cote. He’s super athletic, very quick off the dodge, and had a heavy shot. He often found himself isolated Saturday, but it’s clear how dangerous he can be.
Aiden Carroll, LSM, ’22, Allentown Central Catholic (Uncommitted, Philadelphia Freedom)
So much glory goes to the ACC attack, but the defense is just as good. Yes, Kuczynski is the leader. But that’s only as good as the talent around him. And with Carroll and the other starters, there’s plenty of that. Carroll was huge on the wings as ACC dominated possession and a steady, stay-at-home defender.