OFA, Canton Claim Class B States Berths
BY DAVE SHEA
POTSDAM - Last year, the OFA Boys Soccer season could not have ended on a more disheartening note.
The Blue Devils saw a string Section 10 Class B championships end with a home loss to Salmon River in the semi-final round.
On Saturday night at SUNY Potsdam the Blue Devils (8-5-3) came full circle with a complete turnabout as they extended their 2019 season into the state tournament with a 1-0 victory over a gritty and resilient Canton (7-8-0) squad. They also extended an undefeated run through the second half of the NAC Central Division season where they placed second to Malone which won the Class A Championship.
The Devils also drew a bye into the regional finals which they will host at Potsdam High School on Saturday against the winner of midweek game between the Section 7 and Section 2 champions.
The Class B Girls game saw Canton (10-4-4) and Potsdam (11-1-4) emerge as co-champions after a four-overtime scoreless tie. Canton advanced in the sudden victory stage of a shootout after a four-overtime scoreless tie with Potsdam.
"After last year this really feels good. We did a good job turning things around and they key was communication," said OFA's two-year starting sweeper Greg Mallott who helped seal the win with a break-up tackle to stuff a Canton threat in the closing minutes.
"Our defense came together when Nolan O'Donnell came back from an injury. We have really played well together."
The cohesive effort produced a 16-11 margin in shots, 13 direct kicks and nine corner kicks. One of the corner kicks produced the only goal of the game where Holden Woods knocked home a corner kick by Kam Johnson at 9:02 of the the first half. A first half where the Devils had goals nullified by infractions on a corner kick and a direct kick.
Canton took seven direct kicks and two corner kicks in the game where OFA's David Vernsey finished with 11 saves in the shutout. He sealed the shutout with a leaping save in traffic in the game's final two minutes.
"We did a lot of the good things we have been doing in the past games but we just missed some chances. But our possession was very good. We had two goals called back in the first half and I was really hoping we could knock in another one in the second half," said OFA Coach Matt Morley.
"We didn't but we had a lot of threats. Canton's goalie played well and they had a good game plan. We didn't have a lot of open chances like we did against Potsdam."
The Devils offensive possessions once again centered around strikers Connor Griffith and Karson LaRose and halfbacks Holden Woods and Kam Johnson.
For the second time in two post season games Parker Hunt became the second Canton goalie to excel in their first goaltending effort of the season. Hunt made 15 saves with a series of splendid stops in the second half. He followed Andy Downs who posted a 2-0 shutout in the semi-finals against Salmon River where Downs suffered a separated shoulder late in the game.
"I was really happy with our effort and Parker Hunt played goal for the first time this season and stood on his head. We had some chances and we played our best in the first 20 minutes," said Canton Coach Matt Caufield.
"The best thing about tonight's game for me is that all 11 players who finished the game on the field will be back next year."
The Girls Championship Game was carry over from the close race for the Central Division title. Top seeded Potsdam and second-seeded Canton played to a 110-minute scoreless draw and then went two penalty shots into the second stage a shootout where the Bears prevailed.
In the first round of the shootout both teams went 4-for-5.
Jennifeer Haycook, Hannah Reed, Etta Coburn, Katie Chisholm and Selana Negron scored for Canton and Natalie Cowen, Sophia Janoyan, Louisa Moosburger, and Kennedy Emerson countered for Potsdam.
In the sudden victory stage Katie Chisholm of Canton and Luca Pecora of matched goals and Megan LaFlair scored what proved to be the winner for the Bears when Potsdam's seventh shooter missed.
Abby Dent stopped seven shots for Canton and Taylor Benda made four saves for Potsdam.