Manlius Joe Pugh, captain of the Liverpool boys soccer team, delivered a loud, fiery speech to his fellow players in the moments before Thursday night's game against state Class AA no. 2-ranked Fayetteville-Manlius. Among other things, he predicted that, by night's end, the Hornets would no longer be in that no. 2 spot.
As it turned out, Pugh was a prophet - in fact, it was his foot flicking the ball into the net in the 53rd minute that put Liverpool ahead to stay as it knocked off the Hornets 3-1, loudly proclaiming that it is ready to challenge for a Section III Class AA title.
Pugh said that he and his teammates remembered how well it had played against F-M on Sept. 10 at LHS Stadium, pushing the Hornets to double overtime before Jules Ngadala's goal handed Liverpool a bitter 1-0 defeat.
Barely two weeks later, they were on F-M's turf, but right from the start Liverpool announced its intentions.
Six minutes into the game, Lukas Rubio broke free and got past charging Hornets goalie Jim Brady, only to see his first shot stopped by defender Christian Bagabo and the second attempt crash off the crossbar. Then Brady, with a diving stop, robbed Rubio again three minutes later.
But the Warriors' didn't flinch and, in the 20th minute, did something rare. When Gerardo Ramirez Hadon's lobbed pass from the right corner got flicked into the net by Sam Fuller, Liverpool led 1-0, and gave F-M, 9-0 going into the game, its first deficit all season.
With the defense offering superb protection, it stayed 1-0 until the second half, when the Hornets picked up the pace of its attack. That paid off in the 52nd minute, when Ngadala's strong run to the net led to confusion around the net, and Kyle Peck was unable to get the ball until it had crossed the goal line.