Nov 06, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For the second time in three years, the Marcellus boys soccer team rules the Section III Class B ranks.
And though the question of whether the Mustangs can equal the state-championship run of its 2005 predecessors remains open, the signs sure seem encouraging.
Still, the Mustangs brought a championship home from SUNY-Cortland on Friday night, ripping Lowville 6-0 in a game where senior Alex Rouse took over, putting up four goals — while providing a textbook example of how preparation and past experience can lead to massive doses of success.
Marcellus head coach Jennifer Griffin remembered how the Mustangs lost to Lowville 1-0 in the 2006 Class B quarterfinals, and took plenty of notes watching the Red Raiders shock Westhill in this year’s semifinal round.
Griffin said that Westhill played to its strength on the wings but sacrificed the middle, which let Lowville pack it in and surround its excellent goalkeeper, Zach Haenlin. Marcellus intended to do the opposite — that is, focus on the middle, where Rouse could strike.
“We attacked up the middle, where we thought there was some vulnerability,” said Griffin. “If we could get the ball in front of Alex, he would be dangerous, so we worked on attacking directly.”
Meanwhile, Rouse, a member of that 2005 state title team, did his best job channeling the spirit of Scott Campbell, whose three-goal hat trick in the finals against Clinton that year propelled the Mustangs to that state crown.
Just 3:39 into the game, Rouse struck for the first time, taking a well-time pass from Houke Sievers and ripping a shot past Haenlin. Not content with that, Rouse connected again in the 17th minute, a 15-yard blast into the net off an assist from Joe Carelli.
“It helps to get something early and build the momentum,” said Rouse.
And just when Lowville’s defense tried to bottle up Rouse, Sievers got free and, in the 27th minute, beat Haenlin for his own goal as Carelli got a second assist.
Less than seven minutes into the second half, Rouse earned the hat trick with another blast from the middle that Haenlin had no chance of stopping.
To cap off his masterpiece, Rouse scored again in the 56th minute, then took a well-deserved rest with the game in hand. He got to watch senior John Henry Jackson bend a corner kick directly into the net in the 61st minute.
As much as the Mustangs won this title with its combination of talent, hard work and good performance, it didn’t hurt that the top two seeds in the Class B playoffs bowed out before Marcellus, the no. 4 seed, ran into either of them.
First, Clinton, the top seed and defending champions, fell to no. 9 seed Cazenovia in a shoot-out during the quarterfinal round. Then, no. 2 seed Westhill met the exact same fate thanks to Haenlin’s pair of saves in the shoot-out. Even the scores of both games (1-1) were the same, adding to the irony.
Marcellus took full advantage of all this, starting with last Tuesday’s Class B semifinal at Chittnenago, where it disposed of Cazenovia in a 2-0 shutout.
With two extra days of rest following its quarterfinal rout of Ilion on Oct. 26, the Mustangs had a distinct advantage over the Lakers, who were just 48 hours removed from its long battle with Clinton.
Plus, Marcellus had beaten Cazenovia twice (by margins of 2-1 and 1-0) in regular-season play within the OHSL Liberty division, so it knew how tough goalkeeper Colin Hill could be.
After a slow start from both sides, the Mustangs went ahead in the 17th minute. Jackson’s corner kick went to the middle, where Sievers blasted a header past Hill inside the top right corner of the net.
For most of the game, though, the real stars were the Marcellus defense. Brian Walter, Kevan Busa and Pat Delaney shut down anything Cazenovia tried to establish, doing their best work on dangerous forwards like Tito Ferrari and Chris Rogers. Kyle Blackmer stopped all six shots he had to face.
Still, it remained 1-0 until the decisive moment came with 15:12 to play. Hill came 20 yards out of his box to make a clearing kick — but Rouse was right in front of Hill, and the ball caromed off Rouse’s foot behind Hill and rolled on the turf until it found the unoccupied net.
This led to the final against Lowville, and to Rouse’s big night. He said that an effort similar to the one pulled off here could lead to greater things.
“If we play together like this, we can win it all,” he said.
The first step toward that goal is Wednesday’s Class B regional playoff game against Section II champion Tamarac at Colonie High School near Albany. Marcellus needs to win that game, plus a regional final on Saturday against the Section VII-X survivor, to advance to next weekend’s state final four at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta.