That whole rivalry thing notwithstanding, Cortland High boys’ soccer coach Luke Schweider considered Saturday’s game with visiting Homer Central a must-win.
“We’d been playing well until our last game, a 4-0 home loss to Fulton (on Thursday),” Schweider said after the Purple Tigers had bounced back with a win over the Trojans by that same 4-0 score to improve to 3-3-2 overall. “We were hungry for goals, and were able to score pretty well today. I was told before the game that Cortland hadn’t beaten Homer in years and we finally got one, a must win.”
For the record, the last time the Purple Tigers beat their rivals to the north was in 2014, by a score of 2-0 in Homer on Sept. 25. Since then and up until Saturday, the Trojans had gone 4-0-1 in the series, the 1-1 tie occurring on Moiseichik Field on Sept. 19, 2015.
Cortland had scored six goals and allowed nine in its six games prior to Saturday. “We worked so much on defense that we’d sit back in games,” Schweider said. “Today we used a 4-3-3 and were able to possess up top; to put four in feels good.”
“We lost our shape in the first half,” Homer coach Kevin Douglass said after his team, which trailed 3-0 at halftime, had fallen to 2-6 overall. “Number nine (senior forward Grayson Jones) is tough; we didn’t do a good job of marking him because of not holding our shape. We gave away too much above the box and they beat us to the ball quite a bit.”
“Our players never gave up and kept working hard. In the second half we played better and started building at midfield with smaller passes.”
Jones had two goals and an assist for CHS while junior midfielder Martin Monroe and senior midfielder Zach Stevens scored one goal each. Senior defender Chris Tanner, junior midfielder Nick Litzenberger and Henry (off a clearing punt) each had an assist.
Cortland had a 28-4 shot advantage in the game and had a 7-1 advantage in corner kicks. Senior goalie Josh Henry made one save for the shutout, his third this season, and senior Ethan Lunas stopped 14 shots in goal for Homer.
After applying pressure from the opening kick, Cortland got the only goal it would need 5:04 in as Jones hammered home a high shot from 15 yards out, the assist going to Tanner. Monroe scored his first goal of the season from 25 yards out 8:12 in after a pass from Litzenberger, and Jones got his second goal of the game and team-high fifth this season 17:23 before halftime after a clear from Henry, with a shot from very deep on the left wing side that Lunas was able to block before it trickled past him into the net.
Stevens closed out the scoring 7:52 into the second half, connecting on his first goal of the season from close range on the left side after a crossing pass from Jones as they came in 2-on-1 against Lunas.
“On the first goal, after a little touch over the defender’s head I thought ‘Why not?’ and hit the ball hard,” Jones said. “It felt good to score. On the second one a ball came through on the left side, I trusted my speed to get around the defender and hit the shot hard enough to find Panthers’ volleyball team goes 3-0 the back of the net.
“I thought we picked up our intensity for a big Saturday game against our rival, who we hadn’t beaten in awhile. The Fulton game was in the back of our our minds, but if we didn’t shake it we were in for a miserable 90 minutes. After the first goal went in, we were ready for a good game.”
“We’re an inexperienced older team,” Douglass said. “We only have four returning starters, and although we have 12 seniors some of them didn’t play a lot last season.”
Homer is 2-2 in the OHSL Liberty American Division and returns to league play Tuesday, hosting Chittenango at 6 p.m. on Butts Field.
“I wouldn’t say this was an easy win,” Schweider noted. “We worked hard, and expected a better result that when we scrimmaged Homer (a scoreless tie last month). We were missing some players and have been able to build some chemistry since then on the road to making sectionals.”
Cortland is 2-3-1 in the SCAC Empire Division and has a busy and important week ahead with three home league games on Moiseichik Field — against Jamesville-DeWitt on Tuesday and PSLA at Fowler on Thursday, both at 7 p.m., and against Oswego at 3 p.m. this Saturday in the final three home games of the regular season.
“We have a tough week ahead of us and want to get at least a win and a tie,” Schweider said. “We’ve played all three teams on the road already; we tied J-D 1-1, tied Oswego 1-1 and lost to PSLA at Fowler 1-0.”
The Cortland JVs are 2-6 overall after beating Homer 2-0 on Saturday, both goals coming in the second half. Matt Meagley had a goal and an assist, Max Gambitta one goal and Isaiah Craig one assist for the Purple Tigers, who led 16-6 in shots and 11-4 in corner kicks. The JVs host J-D Tuesday and PSLA at Fowler Thursday, both at 5 p.m., before Oswego visits Saturday in a 3 p.m. start on the lower field.
The Homer JVs are now 1-8 on the season.