ONEONTA — It was a damp, chilly Saturday at the Wright National Soccer Fields, but nothing heats up a day like two former Interscholastic Athletic Conference rivals meeting in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Regional Final with the winner heading to the Class D Final Four at Middletown High School next Saturday and Sunday.
Marathon Central scored in the fifth minute of play and added a second half insurance goal as the Section 4 champions shut out Section 3 champion Cincinnatus 2-0 for the Olympians first trip to the State Final Four since 2010. It was the second win for Marathon over Cincinnatus as the Olympians won a 2-1 non-league match September 24 in Marathon. The Red Lions end their season at 17-3. Marathon (17-2-1) will face Section 7 champion Chazy (18-1) in the semifinals on the Middletown High School grass field this Saturday at 4:15 p.m. Chazy dumped Section 10 champion Heuvelton 8-1 in their regional contest.
Diego Castellot gave Marathon at 1-0 lead 4:52 into the game, Castellot took a centering pass from Mason O’Donnell and drilled a low shot that skipped through the mud and eluded Cincinnatus goalkeeper Jeffrey Rice (4 saves).
“It’s great,” Castellot said of the win. “It’s something we have wanted to do since day one. We are happy to be going there.”
That would be the only score of the first half as much of the play took place between the 18-yard lines. The Olympians did get one more dangerous chance in the half when Jared O’Shea sent a corner kick into the box. Cameron Neilson headed the ball at the goal, but Rice made the save.
The best Cincinnatus scoring opportunity came when Jacob Smith got free and fired a shot on cage. Kenyon DePuy (2 saves) made the stop.
The second half saw Marathon have the gusty winds at their backs more and that created a few more chances. Neilson headed a ball over the crossbar four minutes into the second half. Caden Stafford answered a few minutes later with a bullet that went wide of the Marathon goal.
The Olympians kept up the pressure and earned eight corner kicks during second half play. With 17 minutes to go that constant pressure paid off. O’Donnell sent a corner kick towards the near (right) post. Neilson dove and headed the ball into the goal for a 2-0 cushion and essentially punched Marathon’s ticket to Middletown.
Cincinnatus tried to respond, but the field and the Marathon defense kept the upper hand. Marathon had an 11-4 shot advantage and 11-3 advantage in corner kicks.
“It was slippery out there so the ball didn’t always go where we wanted it to,” Castellot said. “We won and that’s all that mattered. We are one of the Marathon teams that gotten to do this. We just want to represent the town.”
“We can’t remember what our last trip in 2010 was like,” Stewart chuckled. “Defensively, we bent today, but we didn’t break. We didn’t let a lot of shots get to Kenyon. We blocked and deflected some shots. We did a great job on Caden. He is a quality ball player. He put so much pressure on our defense. You have to account for him the whole 100 yards. He can go back and get the ball, release it and keep moving. They had the better of the physicality play today. They were able to bump us off the ball, but overall, we did some good things. They blocked some shots, we hit the pipe and we are getting there.”
Though he was disappointed, Cincinnatus coach Gordy Brown like what his team tried to do in the game.
“These elements were not made for this team,” he said. “We got beat to the ball today. I’ve got young players and we got beat to the ball a lot today. It’s just the way it is, that’s soccer.”
“This is still a big step for us. It’s our second title in four years. We didn’t have one for 30 years prior to that. I think we are going in the right direction, especially as young as these guys are. We are starting a lot of freshmen and sophomores. It’s tough to play freshmen and sophomore in the mud against juniors and seniors. It showed up today. I am still proud of our program, we have had a good season and the girls are still going. They have a chance to win states. It’s still in the school and that’s alright.”
“The pitch wasn’t as conducive to a quality match, but both teams had to play on it,” Stewart added. “The wind was bad, but it doesn’t hurt their game because they like to keep the ball done. They did some great things, the wind hurts us because we like to play the ball up in the air.”
“Overall, Diego played well today. We moved in around the whole game. Darrian Roberts did a great job on Caden in the first half. His hamstring issue popped up again, he tried to go in the second half, but just wasn’t there. We had a 1-0 lead so we decided to switch with Jared O’Shea. He did a great job and really only lost him twice. Caden wasn’t able to get that creative and we got to rest Darrian for next week. We did a good job of taking away angles. We tried to force Caden wide to make him be a distributor instead of a shooter. We didn’t foul anything close (inside the 18-yard line) where he could set up a restart.”
The field was not in the best of shape and a 34 degree wind chill factor made things down right miserable.
“It’s hard to play a good passing game in these conditions,” Brown said. “You can’t keep your feet. These are very sloppy fields.”
As for remembering back to the good old days of this rivalry.
“This was a typical Marathon-Cincinnatus game,” Stewart said. “Even though we don’t play as often as we like, I told Gordie after our first meeting this year, that maybe we would meet again down the line and he said absolutely. It was to see the old rivalry crowd on the other side. That’s the way it should be. Smalltown U.S.A.”
“Chip is a good coach,” Brown added. “He wouldn’t be in this business this long and, get this many wins, without being a good coach. He had a defensive game plan and it worked for them. I’m happy for him. This year they move on, maybe next year we move on.”