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soccer_20111105_120Playing and beating a rival team more than one time, in the same season is not an envious task for even the most seasoned and talented of teams. But that’s what the 2011 Lansing Boys’ Soccer team had to do last Saturday if they wanted to claim their first Sectional Championship since 2007, and keep their undefeated season alive.  Mindful of their gritty and hotly contested 1-0 victory from earlier in the season, the Bobcats knew they would have to be sharp if they were going to deny a return trip to the state tournament for the Olympians of Marathon.

On a mild and sun drenched fall day in Oneonta, the Bobcat faithful were witnesses to a stellar performance from junior Ellington Hopkins, and a complete, supporting team effort that produced an exciting 2-1 victory over a determined and spirited Olympian squad. In moving their record to 19-0 on the season, the Bobcats had to overcome something unfamiliar to them—adversity.  For the first time this season, the Bobcat footballers faced a deficit after conceding a goal in the 9th minute of the opening half that put Marathon up 1-0. A rather stunned Bobcat bench and crowd were curious as to just how the young squad was going to respond, and the Marathon faithful were sensing an upset.

soccer_20111105_kutlerJunior striker Ethan Kutler fires a shot on frame that produced Ellington Hopkins’ first goal of the game, which evened the score at 1 all in the first half

To be sure, Lansing was chasing the game in the first 10 minutes, struggling to counteract Marathon’s aggressive play and the inconsistent field conditions that made ball possession difficult. But slowly, surely, Lansing began to take control of the game’s flow and there was a quiet sense amongst the Lansing faithful that a goal was imminent.

“I knew we were OK after giving up that goal, I didn’t panic, and I could see that the boys weren’t panicking either," said Coach Adam Heck. "I knew a goal was coming”.

Heck was prophetic, as the 25th minute produced the equalizer from the fleet feet of junior striker, Ellington Hopkins. 

Leading scorer and junior striker, Ethan Kutler made one of his trademark darting runs into the box and produced a low, powerful shot that forced a point blank save from the Marathon keeper. In the right place at the right time, Hopkins calmly buried the loose ball into the far side netting, to knot the score at 1 and open up the Lansing offense. Inspired by Hopkins’ strike, the Bobcats poured on the pressure, pelting the Marathon goal and keeper with shots and crosses of all varieties, and forcing several good saves in order to keep the match squared. For Lansing, the half time break was an unwelcome one, as they had finally managed to tilt the field in their favor.

The 2nd half opened much the same way as the first, with several minutes of shaky Lansing play and Marathon control. But then the man of the moment stepped up again, delivering the game-winning goal in dramatic fashion in the 5th minute of the 2nd stanza. This time it was the Bobcats’ 2nd leading scorer setting up Hopkins’ heroics as sophomore midfielder Benji Geisler put a cross into Hopkins’ feet in the 18-yard box. Denied on his first attempt by the Marathon keeper, the rebound again fell to Hopkins who converted with his left foot to put Lansing up 2-1. Not sitting back, the Bobcats continued to work for the proverbial “nail in the coffin”, by attacking the Marathon defense. Senior Sean Streb and junior Cobi Byrne both saw well-struck balls clang off the woodwork, and Hopkins and junior Nate McIntosh continued to wreak havoc by winning balls and putting pressure on the Marathon backs, forcing them to maintain their defensive shape. From the 20-minute mark on, Lansing combined enough team ball control and defensive might to effectively melt the remaining minutes of the 2nd half.

soccer_20111105_groupThe Lansing boys’ soccer team celebrates their Section IV Championship last Saturday at the Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, NY

Heck was well prepared for the rematch and potential adjustments by Marathon’s long time coach, Chip Stewart.

“They tried to take our 2 leading scorers out of the game by man marking Kutler and Geisler, but there aren’t many teams that can stop 4 goal scorers, so they had to pick their poison," he said. "Today, it was El who stepped up and produced for us, last game it was Strebby, either way, we know we are going to score goals.  Our defense just had to keep us in the game after we coughed up the early one, and I knew that we’d find the equalizer and gain momentum, and our defense did just that—they shut them down”. 

Heck was also quick to give credit to his well-organized defense, which collectively shut down a continual aerial attack from Marathon that sought to find holes in the Bobcat defense.

“They were composed and organized, and I thought they kept their shape well…they also covered for each other by getting behind the ball when they needed to,” he said.

The victory moves Lansing onto the quarterfinals of the state tournament, where they will take on Tully High School tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. on the turf field at SUNY Morrisville.  The winner advances to the state semi finals in Newtown, NY the following weekend.

Photos courtesy of Richard Warkenton

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