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November 11 , 2006

 

Marathon boys rise to the occasion

Luce goal late in opening half topples Manlius-PH

By TOM VARTANIAN
Staff Writer

ONEONTA — The bigger the obstacle, the better they seem to play. That is the soccer story for Marathon Central in 2006.
Fresh off their second straight Section 4 Class C championship this past weekend, the Olympian boys returned to the National Soccer Hall of Fame Complex Friday to face Section 3 champion Manlius-Pebble Hill. In the rematch of the 2005 regional championship game, won by Marathon in overtime, the Olympians again bested the Trojans.
Jason Luce scored the only goal of the match with 2:57 left in the first half to lift the No. 4-state ranked Olympians (18-2-1) to the 1-0 victory over the second-ranked Trojans (16-2-1).
Marathon will return to Oneonta next Saturday to compete in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C semifinals at 1 p.m. against the winner of today’s Plattsburgh Seton Catholic from Section 7 versus Maple Hill from Section 2 match. Maple Hill (21-0) is currently the top ranked Class C team in the state.
For Luce, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time as the junior midfielder swooped in and banged the ball into the back of the goal after M-PH goalkeeper Dimitrios Telonis could not control the ball.
Zach Salisbury set up the play with a crossing pass into the box that Matt Frost directed towards the goal. Telonis (four saves) made the initial stop, but the ball came loose in traffic and Luce found the opening and pounced on the opportunity. It was just the eighth goal given up by Telonis — the all-time national leader in career shutouts with 78 — and the Trojans all season long.
 “I just kept making those back-side runs,” said Luce. “Zach had a great cross and the ball just found my foot in the end. It was a great play by Zach to make it all happen.”
“M-PH is a very good team,” he added. “Everyone really stepped up for us today. It feels great to be the first (soccer) team to win back-to-back regional titles.”
“We really wanted to make this happen again,” said Salisbury. “It does seem that Jason and I hook-up at least once for a goal in every game now. I just try to take the ball wide and look for him by swinging the ball to the far post. Coach Stewart tells us to switch the field and were able to do that at times today.”
Marathon senior goalkeeper Josh Kashuba was kept busy much of the game as he made 11 saves. That included a huge diving stop of a header by Trojan freshman midfielder Jonathan Mangram from point-blank range just 25 seconds before the Olympians counter-attacked and scored.
“We have all been working hard and coming together as a family,” said Kashuba, not feeling that it was just his effort that led to the victory. “That is the reason we are where we are now. There is no finger-pointing like there was in the beginning of the season. We know that we have to work together to be successful.”
“Josh Kashuba made three or four great saves,” said Marathon coach Chip Stewart. “That save on the header was a college-level save. That was the kind of save that we could start building on. Our defense did not have to be as perfect because they knew Josh was on his game. He really made some very good decisions today.”
While M-PH did apply some pressure in the first half, there was still a lot of end-to-end action with both teams being able to get some good counterattacks going. The Trojans tried some mid-range shots with Joe Vella and some closer chances with the quickness of Dennis Smalley and Daniel McGowan. Vella forced Kashuba to make a couple of nice saves in the middle of the first half with some nice open looks from 20-30 yards out. Smalley and McGowan tried to work free in the box, but Aubrey Brown, Brett Padbury, Mike Parker and Alan Brown helped keep things in check,
“They did have a very quick front line,” said Aubrey Brown. “We really had to work today to try and keep them under control. I think we did all right. They did get some chances, but we were able to hold them.”
Marathon did miss two good chances to take leads earlier as well. One was a nice through ball by Marcus Diaz to Kasey Bush, but Telonis smothered the ball before a real shot could be fired. The other was a Vinnie Powierski to Salisbury pass that just missed the right post.
The second half began with Smalley just missing a shot to the left post by inches in the opening 30 seconds. That allowed the Trojans to gain some momentum and force a lot of the play during the final 40 minutes.
Marathon did have more one golden opportunity when Bush worked himself free along the end line and blistered a shot at Telonis, who quickly made the save and cleared the ball.
M-PH began pushing everyone up, keeping 10 players across the midfield stripe in the last 15 minutes. Naji Muakkassa delivered a rocket from the top of the box that Kashuba made a diving save to his left with 14 minutes to play.
The Olympians did counterattack twice against the pressure, but the main goal was to use up the time by just sending the ball back to the other end of the field and then regrouping defensively.
In the final eight minutes, M-PH got four more corner kick opportunities, but Kashuba and company handled them with a save or a good clear back to midfield.
Once the final whistle was blown to signal the end of the game, Coach Stewart could finally enjoy the big win by his Olympians.
“What more can you say, the seniors really stepped up today,” said Stewart. “Brett, Alan and Mike (Parker) in back did well and Aubrey did a nice job marking the Smalley boy. I have said it before, these seniors are a special group and they have been through this war before. They wanted to get back here again. They are still not satisfied, but we need to take things one game at a time. We hope to make it to that final (championship) game. We have been here twice in the past six years. If it is not in the cards, so be it, but that is our focus.”
“We are still jelling as a team,” Stewart added. “We are not dominating people. They really put the pressure on, but we were able to hold on. They got a couple of good shots, but it was mostly just corner kicks. M-PH may have the more talented bunch, but I have a real scrappy group of kids who play with a their heads and a lot of heart.”
After receiving the runner-up trophy, M-PH quietly met near the one goal and it was several minutes before veteran coach Don Ridall could lift his head from his hands and speak about the loss,
“I am extremely disappointed,” said the distraught Ridall. “We are a much better team than what we showed today. We certainly had our chances, Give Marathon a lot of credit. They played hard and stuck one in. That’s soccer.”