Ahead of the start of Nick Eppley’s final season in a Mid-West football uniform, the senior set himself several goals that he was determined to accomplish before his career ended.
“It was my senior year so I wanted to go out there and have fun,” Eppley said. “If this was to be the last time I played, I wanted (also) to come out with a kind of bang, and whether it’s scoring goals or making assists or whatever comes with it (that’s brilliant). The real thing is playing with my teammates and playing a game that I love. “
The Mustangs had a wonderful season before they finished – a loss to Lewisburg on penalties in the PIAA Class 2A tournament capped Midd-West’s season at 21-3, a victory before playing for gold in Pennsylvania – and Eppley’s last run in high school was flush with one individual highlight after another.
Eppley has scored 30 goals and assisted on 15 goals, numbers that brought his career totals to 80 and 45, respectively. His 205 points rank him second in Midd-West history, behind the 249 of his former teammate Carter Knepp (92g, 65a).
Eppley also landed his fourth All-Star from the Pennsylvania Heartland Conference – a first-team place on the Division I All-Star team was his second and he had two nods in the second. team – and received one of the three stars of the PHAC. state slots.
Eppley, however, was not finished as an All-American regional advisory followed.
The talented Midd-West attacking midfielder – he spent his first three seasons as a striker – is recognized as Men’s Football Player of the Year by The Daily Item.
So it’s safe to say that Eppley ended his high school career with a series of bangs.
“I was just excited,” Eppley said upon hearing he had been picked for all states and as a player for all regions. “Considering the talent in the region, and even (across) the state, to be recognized as one of the best players in the state is truly amazing. “
Eppley might have been amazed when the playoff recognition landed at his feet, but Midd-West coach Mark Ferster had expected plenty of accomplishments from the moment he saw Eppley play the game for the first time.
It was while he was in fifth year, a year before he started coaching Eppley at club level.
“When I started coaching him I could see he was going to be that special player… and he was going to aim for the stars,” said Ferster. “He was going to improve against better competition, once he got the chance.
“He has this natural ability to come forward to receive a ball and then what he does with it, whether it’s going to goal or making a pass that only guys dream of or couldn’t do. Nick was the kind of player who could do that.
While Midd-West was unable to win a Class 2A District 4 Championship that has eluded the Mustangs for years, Eppley began to show his clutch gene as the state game began in earnest.
Eppley scored game-winning goals in successive 3-2 victories over Lancaster Mennonite and Notre Dame-Green Pond – the latter from a penalty kick.
Those two wins put the Mustangs in the Class 2A Final Four against a Lewisburg program that had given Midd-West their only two losses to date.
“If I had to put my two cents in… the Midd-West central midfielder was the best player we’ve seen all year,” said Greenwood coach Aaron Anstine. “He controlled the game; the pace of his playing was phenomenal; (he has a fantastic understanding) of the game and he was always in the right place at the right time.
“He played well with his team and his team used him, but he used them. It wasn’t like he was trying to do everything himself.
Eppley and the Mustangs battled Lewisburg through regulation and two overtime sessions, the game was tied (1-1) before a shootout, in which the Green Dragons prevailed.
“I would sum it up as a great season even though we weren’t able to accomplish what we wanted,” said Eppley. “But the hard work and teamwork that I saw within the team that we collectively put together was enough for me. I know we didn’t get that end result, but I don’t think we have anything to be ashamed of.
Although Eppleys’ high school career is over, he would accept the challenge of playing to the next level – although he hasn’t finalized anything.
Right now, he’s leaning towards a major in nutritional science at the Penn State University campus, and he would love the chance to join a roster of Nittany Lions that includes Ben Liscum of Lewisburg.
Whatever Eppley’s future may be, Ferster feels lucky for what his elder has brought to the team.
“Any coach who spoke to me after the game or whenever I used to say something like, ‘Hey, that No.13 is a huge player. “It would be nice to have a few like him on our squad,” Ferster said. “And I would say, ‘Yeah, that’s really cool.’
“What else can you say to the other coaches who say, ‘Hey, do you have a really special player playing for you? And I feel blessed to be at the helm and to be able to coach a player of Nick’s caliber, because he’s special.