November 17 , 2006
Olymps hungry for state boot title
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Marathon junior striker Matt Doran (6), heading the ball against Elmira Notre Dame in the Section 4title game, is part of an Olympian squad chasing after a Class C state soccer title.
MARATHON — According to the latest New York State Sportswriters Association poll, the best two Class C teams in New York State will not meet for the championship Sunday, they will meet in the NYS Public High School Athletic Association semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m.
That is when Marathon Central boys return to the National Soccer Hall of Fame Complex in Oneonta to face Section 2 champion, Maple Hill.
The Olympians (19-2-1) moved into the number two spot in the poll after their thrilling 1-0 win over previously second-ranked Manlius-Pebble Hill last Saturday, while the Wildcats (22-0) remain the top-ranked team in the state. This is the second straight trip to the Final Four for the Olympians, who fell to Keio Academy in the 2005 semifinals.
“We are hungrier this year,” said senior midfelder Zach Salisbury. “We have really worked hard and we really want that state title.”
“It feels really good to be going back to the state semifinals,” added junior midfielder Jason Luce, who scored the game-winning goal against M-PH one week ago.
With Keio Academy being moved up to Class A this season, there is another change that some fans may not recognize.
“I believe this is the first time that there has been an all-public school final four in a while,” said Marathon coach Chip Stewart. “Our guys are looking forward to the challenge Saturday. We would like to get to the championship game Sunday, but we need to deal with Maple Hill first.”
“We have a very special group of kids this season,” he added. “I have been saying that about our seniors all season long, but it really applies to the juniors on this team as well. Guys like Matt Doran, Aubrey Brown and Jason Luce are part of that junior group and they have been a part of the varsity program for three seasons.”
As for the talented Wildcats, who also make another return to the final four, Coach Stewart offered these thoughts.
“Maple Hill is a seasoned team that has been here before,” said Stewart. “They have a veteran coach. We know this will be another uphill battle, but our guys are scrappers. Maple Hill has three good scorers and we just need to find a way to control them. You don’t always stop the best players, but you try to limit what they can do against you.”
“To win this game, you need to capitalize on your opponent’s mistakes,” Stewart added. “You also need to make the most of the scoring opportunities that you get, because there are not that many when you get to this level. We just need to settle down and take care of business.”
The Wildcat trio that Coach Stewart mentioned is senior striker Michael Ackerman (32 goals-six assists), sophomore striker Jaime Schultz (31g-5a) and senior striker Tim Ciampa (22g-8a). This trio has accounted for 85 of the 112 goals scored by Maple Hill this season.
Also starting for the Wildcats are midfielders Matt Beebe (senior), Andrew Charsky (junior) and Dan Haggerty (senior); defenders C.J. Dergurehian (senior), Colin Legge (senior) and Dan Roth (junior); senior sweeper Charlie Ohrin and senior goalkeeper Corey Stockman. Playing in a majority of the Maple Hill games, Stockman has surrendered just eight of the 10 goals allowed and has a save percentage near 91 percent.
“We really have a lot of young kids who had to learn to play at a higher level this season,” said Maple Hill coach Dan Gillespie. “These young guys filled the void and have been playing well for us.”
As for the number-one ranking, Coach Gillespie does not worry what the sportswriters or fans think. The Wildcats did run the table (15-0) in the Patroon Conference, which included seven Class B schools and Class A school Ichabod Crane.
“Number one is just a number,” he said. “We lost to Red Creek in the semifinals last year and they lost to Keio in the finals. Keio was moved up in class this season and Red Creek was defeated earlier in the post-season. Does that makes us number one? I’m not really sure. The number one team will be the one that can handle the pressure this weekend and win two games.”
“We respect everyone who has made into the final four,” he added. “I remember seeing Marathon play against Keio a few years ago. They were a big, strong team then and I would expect much of the same now. To make it to the final four two years in a row says enough as to how good the Marathon program is.”
The Olympians have had a very balanced scoring attack all season long. Salisbury leads the team with 13 goals and 12 assists while Luce has 12 goals and four assists. Senior midfielder Andrew Parker has added 10 goals and five assists with eight goals and four assists coming from senior striker Matt Braman. There are several other Marathon players with five or six goals scored this season.
The starting line-up for Marathon will have Braman and junior Matt Doran at striker; Luce, Parker, Salisbury and senior Marcus Diaz at midfield; seniors Mike Parker and Alan Brown are the marking backs; junior Aubrey Brown is the stopper; senior Brett Padbury is the sweeper and senior Josh Kashuba is the goalkeeper. Kashuba is averaging 5.9 saves per game with a goals-against average of 0.809. The senior netminder has nine shutouts this season.
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Dragons look to make statement
SUNY Cortland could still be feeling sorry for itself.
Though obviously deserving of being part of the NCAA Division III playoff picture after going 9-1 and sharing first place in the New Jersey Athletic Conference, despite having lost three quarterbacks to injury, the Red Dragons’ spirit could be doused heading into this 2006 football_finale.
That is one concern for Coach Dan MacNeill when his nationally ranked but uninvited squad plays host to Saturday’s ECAC Northeast bowl game. Rensselaer is the noontime visitor for this season-ending gathering at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.
MacNeill also notes, despite the disappointment of being left out of the NCAA field, that this team never had had a problem getting ready to play. Though there is no national title quest, there are still plenty of other things to consider going into this first-ever match-up against the Engineers from Troy.
That is why the 10th year head coach speaks of levers that could get Red Dragon ambitions aloft prior_to kickoff.
“There’s the lever of being able to play one last game together, the lever of playing a quality team, the lever of not having won a playoff game here since 2002 and the lever of being able to be regarded as one of the most successful teams in school history. There are a lot of good things there, a lot of good things to chew on,” he said.
Offensive coordinator Dan Lounsbury spoke to the team during the week about the first aspect, about being able to “put on the silks” one last time. With that in mind, seniors like fullback Mike Emard and defensive end Rich DeJesus will be getting their first starts in their final game.
“There’s no question the players wanted the season to go on as long as it could,” said MacNeill. Cortland voted unanimously to accept an ECAC bid even before the NCAA thumbed its nose at the Red Dragons — the only ranked team not to be in the playoffs. Cortland is ranked 15th in this week’s AFCA Division III national poll and 14th in the D3football.com rankings.
“I told the guys to embrace it and feel blessed to spend another week together,” said MacNeill.
PLAYING RPI is a challenge onto itself.
The Engineers, at 6-3, are fresh off a 24-19 upset of Liberty League champion Union in the annual battle for the Dutchman Shoe Trophy. Union and second place Hobart will both represent the league in the NCAA playoffs.
“RPI is a really good football team, and they just beat a good team, an NCAA team,” said MacNeill of the Engineers win over Union. “They’re not going to be intimidated coming to Cortland. They’ve had success in the NCA playoffs in the past, certainly more success that we’ve had there.”
Hobart received the NCAA berth Cortland felt it deserved, which adds to the aspect of playing a Liberty Division team like RPI. Hobart plays at NJAC champion Rowan Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.
“We have a chance to make a statement,” said MacNeill of the RPI challenge.
Doing so would give the Red Dragons their first post-season victory since thumping Westfield State 30-7 to close out the 2002 season. Cortland lost 47-37 6o St. John Fisher in a 2003 ECAC bowl game and was nipped 23-22 by Hobart in last year’s NCAA opening round.
Being regarded as one of the best teams ever at Cortland is also on this team’s mind. A 10th victory would be the second most wins ever posted in school history. Only the 11-1 squad coached by Dennis Kayser in 1988 had more success, those Red Dragons going two games deep into the NCAA playoffs.
THE CORTLAND DEFENSE has been the backbone of this team, having allowed 14 points and 214 yards per game to opponents.
Inside senior linebacker Bill Hauser has 65 tackles and Al-America senior tackle Adam Haas 61 tackles for a team that has been ever so stingy against the run.
The Red Dragons also have 47 quarterback sacks, DeJesus and Haas leading the way with seven and a half sacks apiece. The secondary has picked off 14 passes, with junior cornerback Jeff Beck with four thefts. Hauser has picked off three passes, including the crucial overtime pick that set up last Saturday’s 23-20 Cortaca Jug victory over Ithaca College.
RPI comes into the game looking to get senior tailback and team captain Jay Bernardo 1,000 rushing yards for the year. Through nine games, the 5-foot-7, 190-pounder has rushed for 995 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Engineers.
Sophomore quarterback Jimmy Robertson gives the RPI offensive balance, having thrown for 1,869 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has completed 59 percent of his passes.
Junior Brendan McGowan is the top receiver, having latched onto 55 passes for 619 yards. He has five touchdown catches, while 6-foot-4, 245-pound tight end Jon Brenche has caught six touchdown passes among his 39 receptions.
RPI averages 354 yards of offense per contest.
Meanwhile, Cortland freshman quarterback Todd Pratt will be the fourth starting quarterback used this season because of injuries. Coach MacNeill raved about the performance of Pratt coming off the bench in the Ithaca win, completing 11-of-17 passes on a rainy afternoon in the biggest game of his life.
PRATT HOPES TO get help from the Red Dragon running game that features senior captain Matt Rickert, who has rushed for 752 yards and nine touchdowns. Rickert and back-up Dustin Bowser both average four yards per carry.
The running game and Cortland special teams — where punter Jimmy Cunneen, kicker Matthew Mintz and punt returning Stef Sair have excelled — will be vital to finish the season with the coveted 10th victory.
Bouncing back from the emotions and physical pounding in last week’s Cortaca Jug victory is another worry, MacNeill noting his team is pretty banged up heading into this finale.
Truluck Plays of CFL Title
Former SUNY Cortland All-America defensive end R-Kal Truluck is the starting defensive end for the Montreal Alouettes, who will face the BC. Lions in Sunday’s 94th Grey Cup game that will crown the Canandian Football League champion.
The Montreal (11-8) vs. B.C. Lions (14-5) game is a 6 p.m. start at Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg, and will be televised live by Tim Warner Sports.
Truluck was a Red Dragon standout, earning All-America honors during his junior year in 1995. Professionally, the Spring Valley native played for the Kansas City Chiefs (2002-03), Green Bay Packers (2004) and the Arizona Cardinals (2005) along with previous stints with other CFL and Arena Football League squads.
He has 24 tackles and five sacks for Montreal this season.
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