October 8, 2012
Eagles clipped by Lions’ rally
Eagles clipped by Lions’ rally
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Mickey Halstrom (7) of Cincinnatus and McGraw’s David Levitskiy (15) both get a head on this ball during Saturday night’s CCL soccer showdown at SUNY Cortland. Cincy prevailed 2-1 in overtime.
With its back to the wall and its streak of winning or sharing five straight Central Counties League championships in danger of being broken, the Cincinnatus Central boys’ soccer team needed some late heroics against rival McGraw Central Saturday night at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
Cincy’s Red Lions came into the contest second in the league at 7-1 while the Eagles — who handed host Cincy that league loss by 2-1 back on Sept. 12 — were first at 8-0-1 and would all but wrap up the crown with either a win or a tie.
Coach Gordy Brown’s squad trailed 1-0 in the waning moments when their heroes showed up in front of a large, bipartisan crowd.
First senior Nick Lindley, ordinarily a sweeper who was moved up by Brown and assistant coach Don Hartley for some extra offense, tied the game off a scramble in front of the goal with just a minute left in regulation.
Then another senior, forward Jesse Constantino, scored from 30 yards out with 3:30 left in the second overtime to give the Red Lions a 2-1 win.
“This team had some extra incentive to keep the streak (of titles) alive,” said Brown after Cincy, ranked 19th in the state among Class D teams, had improved to 10-1 overall. “This game showed just how important winning this league is to both teams We dominated the first half but give McGraw credit, they stepped it up in the second. Once we tied it, though, I knew they’d be in trouble in overtime. We just put the hammer down.”
The Red Lions did dominate the first half, doing everything — with a 9-2 shot advantage and 10 -1 margin in corner kicks — but putting the ball in the net. McGraw junior goalkeeper Ryan White tipped a shot just over the crossbar 7:30 into the game, but after a couple of other near-misses it was the Eagles who scored first. Junior varsity callup Aiden Dittman, a freshman forward, took a cross on the right-wing side from junior midfielder David Leach and put a low shot back across to the far corner past Cincy junior keeper Shea Feehan just 28 seconds before intermission.
“Aiden was in the right place at the right time, and put the ball in the right place,” said McGraw coach Cory Smith, his team now 9-2-1 and ranked 14th in the state in Class D. “We called him and Drew Smith (freshman midfielder and the coach’s son) up from the JVs with Ben Hammond (senior midfielder) injured and other players banged up. He’s a smart player, but still has things to learn.
“We had to make some changes during the game after losing Aaron Hitt,” he added, senior defender Hitt suffering a nose injury. “We moved Nick Cowen back from the front line, which took a little away from our offense but helped keep the defense strong.”
Once the second half started Constantino hit the right goal post just under six minutes in, but McGraw did a much better job of playing its rival on even terms and appeared well on its way to victory until Lindley scored his second goal of the season off an assist by senior Bryant Loomis.
“I saw the ball came in and it landed in front of me, so I put it in,” Lindley said with a smile. “It was a low shot, and I think their goalie got a finger on it. That gave us a lot of momentum going into overtime. I wasn’t too worried. I knew we’d stick together and pull it out.”
After an even first overtime session, Cincy did just that thanks to Constantino’s perfectly placed shot from 30 yards out, under the bar and just over White’s outstretched hands for his fifth goal of the season.
“I saw an opening and knew I had to take it,” he said. “We couldn’t afford a tie; we had to win. As soon as it was off my foot I thought it had a good chance.”
“We were going to be happy with the tie; it would have kept us in first,” Cory Smith said. “Before the overtimes started we told the kids to attack had and be smart defensively.”
The Red Lions ended up with a 17-3 shot advantage, Feehan making two saves while White stopped nine shots.
As is usually the case in games between the two schools, emotions ran high. Brown was, in fact, given a yellow car by one of the officials 12:33 before halftime for a vociferous protest. He was able to make light of it somewhat afterward, noting that “I was proud of the fans from both schools. We didn’t hear one nasty thing, one bad comment, which is something with this many people. It was just me saying negative things.”
McGraw hosts Madison Monday in a 4:30 p.m. start while Cincy is now off until Friday, when it travels to Otselic Valley for another game that starts at 4:30 p.m.
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