November 27, 2021

Marathon boys claim 1st state title

State Champions

Katie Vartanian/Contributing Photographer

The Marathon boys' soccer team celebrates its first state title after a 1-0 win over Mount Academy 11/17 at Middletown High School.

MIDDLETOWN — In a game that saw just six total shots, it only took one for the Marathon Central boys’ soccer team to claim its first ever New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship.

Ian Gacek finished a crossing pass from Cameron Neilson with 14:17 left in the first half for the only goal of the game as the Olympians capped their 19-0-1 season with a 1-0 victory over Section 9 champion Mount Academy Sunday for the Class D title at Middletown High School on the slick Faller Stadium grass field. The Eagles finish their season at 15-3 with its only other two losses this season to NYSPHSAA Class C state champion Rhinebeck, a 1-0 winner over Lansing from Section 4 who was bidding for a third straight state crown.

Marathon reached the title game with a 3-0 victory over Section 5 champion Fillmore Saturday on the Faller Stadium turf field. Mount Academy advanced with a 2-1 win over defending state and Section 7 champion Chazy Saturday. It was emotional Olympians’ head coach when Chip Stewart spoke after the awards ceremony.

“You still have to say goodbye to seniors Tom and…..(sigh)…you know how hard we worked to get here,” Stewart said with tears in his eyes.

After another pause, he continued, “My staff, the school, the community, the past players…I got a call every night wishing us good luck. Great things for us. You just don’t know when it’s going to be your turn or time. We’ve brought some great teams to these final fours and have had tremendous success, but we couldn’t get by and get the brass ring. We’ve had some great battles and I go back to the ’06 (2006) team. We lost to Maple Hill in a penalty kick shootout (in the semifinals). That was one of the best games I was ever a part of. They went on to bury the team the next day. That could have been our turn. We lost to Keio Academy one year. You just never know if you’re going to have that opportunity. I though we would be good this year. I didn’t know how good, how the chemistry would be. We lost a couple of players off of last year’s team and we lost to a fantastic Chazy team last year. This team stay focused, they stayed together, the chemistry was unbelievable.”

Each team got just three shots in the entire game with Marathon goalkeeper Kenyon DePuy and Mount Academy goalkeeper Hudson Boller up to the challenge with three and two saves respectively. Marathon got five corner kicks in the game with Mount Academy having only one, but it came with two minutes left in the game.

“It’s all good teams went you get here,” Stewart said. “It was a battle, but we hung on. We didn’t change our identity. We defended well. We held number 7 (Benson Arnold) and number 11 (Caleb Meier) in check.”

“We got to those final two minutes and we had a restart. We start thinking what’s going to happen this time. You have that little negativity. What are we going to do that is not worthy of us being successful. The clock doesn’t move fast enough, but I could not be prouder of this group. I am going to miss these seniors and we know how I am with seniors. You are never going to coach them again.”

Marathon had four corner kicks in the first 14 minutes of play and Neilson broke free on a breakaway where Boller smothered the ball before a shot could be taken. Braeden Morrison was taken down from behind in the box and no foul or penalty kick was award so play continued.

Finally, Neilson got a nice run down the right flank and sent a crossing pass into the box. Eagles’ defender Mychal Wipf tried to reach the ball, but Gacek poked it first with his left foot. The pace was good as the ball slid by Boller and inside the left post for the winning goal.

Katie Vartanian/Contributing Photographer

Marathon’s Ian Gacek (right) celebrates his goal with Braeden Morrison (left ) and Andrew Tillotson (back). Gacek scored the only goal in the Olympians’ 1-0 win over Mount Academy Sunday at Middletown High school for the NYSPHSAA Class D championship.

“It was nice,” Gacek said. “We have all worked really hard to get here. I just tapped the ball and it happened to go in. It was kinda pure luck really.”

“We worked on filling in by the far post,” Stewart said. “Ian was there today and he beat the goalie. It was bang, he pounced on it. That was good for him. He has struggled at times this year, but he’s hung in there and worked hard. This was one of his best games for us.”

With the defense shining again, Marathon posted two shutouts over the weekend for 16 this season and just five goals allowed. It was no real surprise when when senior sweeperback Andrew Tillotson was named the Olympians’ MVP in the final four by the state tournament committee.

“I’ve been playing defense since I was really young,” Tillotson said. “I have really adapted to the sweeper role since I’ve been playing it for the last three years. I just take what I learn in each game and try to get better. It really showed this year.”

From the offensive end to the defense, it was just a complete package that meshed this season.

“We had a legitimate goal scorer in Cameron Neilson,” Stewart said. “We have a central midfielder who is as good as it gets in Diego Castellot. He’s a top notch, quality player. I can’t say enough about our defense. It is a senior-led group along with Joey Hulbert, who is a junior. It was a senior group led by Kenyon DePuy in goal with Andrew Tillotson at sweeper and Jared O’Shea who is our marking back. Jared takes on the best attacking players on the other team. Owen Hoyt started out as a midfielder, but he slid back to defense when Nick Allen got hurt and we really did not miss a step defensively. We just had all the pieces. We could defend. We had midfielders who could handle the ball. Braeden Morrison played well on the outside which opened up thing for Diego. Again, if we put the ball up front, Cam found a way to score.”

Katie Vartanian/Contributing Photographer

The Marathon boys’ soccer team celebrated its 1st state championship Sunday in Middletown

As important as this first title is to Stewart, who has coached for 32 years, it was just as big for the players, “It’s amazing,” Tillotson said. “I am glad that we were finally the first team to do it. We had some really good teams in the past, but have just fallen short. I’m glad we were the first one. I love this group and I’m really going to miss them. I’m glad we finished the season undefeated.”

“It feels like we are legends for our school,” Gacek added. “We’ve played together for like 13 years or so,” Neilson said. “We wanted it real bad last year and we got knocked off. We got back here this year and we had some unfinished business. We were able to finish it off. We wanted this title for coach, for the community and for all of the seniors.”

On Saturday, Neilson scored two goals and Morrison scored once in the 3-0 victory over Fillmore. The Marathon defense was equally strong as DePuy anchored the 15th shutout of the season for the Olympians.

Neilson scored the first goal of the game with Morrison making it 2-0 by halftime.

Neilson scored his 39th goal of the season during second half play.