Trojans conquer Faith Heritage for Class C title

Central New York's most heated soccer rivalry had gone two whole years without a confrontation for a Section III championship.

But Manlius-Pebble Hill and Faith Heritage fixed that problem and, on a cold Saturday at SUNY-Cortland, met for the fifth time in seven years in a championship match, this time at the Class C level.

And it was the Trojans that would repeat as sectional champions, drawing early blood, then hanging on for a hard-fought, 1-0 victory over the Saints.

They had met twice in the regular season, playing to a 1-1 draw in September before MPH claimed the rematch, 1-0, on Oct. 13 -- the day Dimitri Telonis broke the national record for career shutouts.

Thus, both teams knew that any goal would be precious, since the defenses could be counted on to make scoring difficult.

But on a corner kick barely seven minutes into the game, MPH tested that theory. Dan McGowan floated the ball into the middle, and freshman Jon Mangram headed the ball past Faith goalie P.J. Jackson.

Though the Trojans would control the game's flow of play, taking three times as many shots as the Saints, it would not find the net again. Faith's back line cut off most attacks, and Jackson, with 16 saves, was superb in keeping the rest out.

MPH knew it had to be just as good with its resistance -- and it was. B.J. Dew, T.J. Dee, Naji Muakkassa and the rest of the Trojans' defense maintained control and kept Faith from getting close to the net most of the time. Telonis made seven saves to run his career shutout total to 79.

The Trojans reached the final by pulling away from Tully in last Wednesday's Class C semifinal at Corcoran High School, beating the Black Knights 4-0.

MPH built a modest 1-0 edge before halftime, then drew clear as Mangram stepped up to score twice, the first two-goal outing of his varsity career.

McGowan put up one goal and one assist, while Dennis Smalley had the other goal and Muakkassa earned an assist. Telonis, to get his 78th career shutout, had to make just four saves.

The Trojans play this Saturday at 1:15 at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta in the Class C regional final against Section IV champion Marathon, hoping to return to Oneonta next weekend to play in the state final four.

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