HIGH SCHOOL SOCCER: Winning, not goals, most important to Abington Heights' Stiles

Sep. 4—More. It's not always the best thing for a team, Abington Heights senior Kohen Stiles points out.

A year ago, Stiles led the Lackawanna Soccer League's Division I in scoring with 25 goals.

It's not a title he's eyeing this time around.

"Yeah, I was the top goal scorer, but this year, I feel like things are gonna be different," said Stiles, one of four All-Region performers among a slew of returning starters across the league's three divisions. "I'm not really going to be trying to score all the goals. It'll be split up. "Way more than it was last year, I believe, because we're running a different offense. So it's not like it's built around one striker.

"I know last year I was in the newspaper, but it doesn't have to be that way. I don't have to be that guy. I just want our team to do well."

There will be challenges ahead for the defending Division I and District 2 champs.

Abington Heights graduated six key players, and North Pocono, favored by coaches to unseat the Comets, returns two of the All-Region players.

Zach Evans scored 20 goals as a sophomore, just the second Trojan to reach the plateau. Another junior, Eliot Bowen, had 16 goals and 14 assists, the only Division I player to reach double figures in both.

White North Pocono, with nine starters back, is the favorite, there's hardly a team that didn't receive some mention as a potential contender in what should be a balanced league.

In Division II, Lakeland and Mountain View are contenders, but Dunmore, led by All-Region midfielder Tommy Clark, is the odds-on favorite.

Clark, a junior, is a two-time All-Region performer who last season helped Dunmore win its first District 2 title by scoring 26 goals with 18 assists.

Old Forge, led by Anthony Mucciolo and Nahuel Minis, who combined for 22 goals and 18 assists, is the pick to win Division III, a slight favorite over both Elk Lake and Blue Ridge.

Stiles knows it won't be easy, but likes where the team is headed.

"I liked it last year, but I also am a big fan of the way that we're doing stuff this year," Stiles said. "Just because I feel like it'll create more opportunities to go out and score goals."

With a player like Stiles on the field, those chances will come.

"For sure, the first word that comes to mind is dynamic," coach Frank Dyska said. "I think he's someone who's worked pretty hard over the last three or four years to really develop a bunch of areas of his game.

"There's just some moments of dribbling where he just gets out of situations you really should not be getting out of, in theory."

Dyska's known for more than the last four years that Stiles had a high ceiling.

"I first saw Kohen play when I was a counselor at Keystone (Colle) camp when he was in fifth, sixth grade," Dyska said. "He just happened to be in my group.

"He was a pretty talented player back then, too. I have some pretty vivid memories of him being a pretty good player even then."

Stiles developed first as a talented passer during his sophomore year, then into a prolific goal scorer.

Since November, he's added a nuance to his game that might go unnoticed.

"I played a lot over the winter, spring and summer, so I've tried to improve my positioning and just understanding the game," Stiles said.

Attacking space for teammates and playmaking with the ball are other dimensions Stiles brings to the field, and what Dyska sees every day.

"I would say nothing but good old fashioned hard work," Dyska said. "He's somebody that just kind of manages to surprise you even after watching him for so many years.

"Honestly, just his general intensity, I feel like he's elevated it even more through the summer. Whether it's a pickup game or some sort of scrimmage, you can feel the energy he brings to that."

That is not a coachable trait. Neither is the understanding that it's going to take more than talk to reach last year's successes.

"We can't rely on other people's expectations or their talk. Not paying attention to all the talk going around. I feel like the internet brings a lot of pressure. The supposed record we're going to have.

"The talk about the league leaders, the best teams around here. We've got to not let that get in our heads."

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