November 30, 2021

Marathon escapes to win division

AURORA — Winning a division title is usually a cause for celebration. But for the Marathon Olympians, their performance left concern for Saturday’s IAC Small Championship Game.

Ultimately, a win is a win, and the Olympians are IAC Small North Division champions after hanging on for a 2-1 victory over the Southern Cayuga Chiefs at Southern Cayuga High.

The first half wasn’t much of a concern for the Olympians, as they dominated possession and scored both of their goals in the opening 40 minutes. In the 15th minute, Kaiden Cornell received a through ball that the Southern Cayuga back line didn’t react to and coasted all the way toward the net for the goal.

“That was a good play,” Marathon coach Chip Stewart said. “We slotted the ball very well, and Kaiden took his time. Sometimes he gets his speed going a little bit too fast. That time he settled in, took his time and played a nice ball past the goalie.”

In the 36th minute, a Marathon corner kick landed in the box and pinballed off several players from both teams, with the Marathon bench and fans looking for a possible handball call on Southern Cayuga, before Bryce Howe finally buried the shot past Southern Cayuga goalie Brandon Vanacore.

As impressively as the Olympians played in the first half, Stewart felt his team could have easily had more than just two goals.

“We did some great things, but we had to play people out of position just because of our depth, and sometimes they’re not used to being in those spots,” Stewart said.

Not being able to convert on those opportunities in the first half set an ominous tone for the second half, when it was Southern Cayuga dominating possession for the first 20 minutes, pressuring the Marathon back line and goalie Trent Ensign. While Ensign didn’t have to make too many saves, the chances

Southern Cayuga were able to generate had the Olympians on their heels and playing extremely conservatively.

A mask break in the 60th minute gave Stewart a chance to talk to his team and get them playing aggressively again, and it showed for much of the rest of the game.

“That gets everybody rested,” Stewart said. “We’re young, and we don’t have a deep bench…you’re asking a lot from kids at the varsity level trying to do things, and sometimes it’s frustrating for them…younger kids, they think they’ve got time at the varsity level hanging on to the ball too long.”

But in the 78th minute, with the Chiefs doing everything they could to extend the game and their season, Cullen Parker received a cross with Ensign off his line and the defense out of position and headed the ball from left side off the right post and into the net, cutting the deficit to 2-1.

Unfortunately for the Chiefs, it was too little, too late, as the Olympians were able to play keep-away for just long enough to bleed the rest of the clock dry.

“It’s young kids learning to finish things off,” Stewart said. “We played well in the first half. We did some great things. In the second half, we came out like we already had it won. It looked like we just decided to sit back, play defense and bang the ball all over the place, and look what happened. They got momentum, they bang a ball in with two minutes left and they have an opportunity.”

Marathon plays Trumansburg for the IAC Small Championship Saturday at a time and venue to be determined.

“This’ll be our fourth straight year playing Trumansburg in the championship game,” Stewart said. “Last year we ended a streak of 200 straight tied minutes and we beat them 2-0. But we lost a lot of players and they lost more. I think they lost 13 players and we lost seven. It should be a good game. Coach (Jason) Hodge has a good program and they’ll be ready to go.”