Blue Devils top Rams for Delaware title

By Julia Green
Once again, it was the third time that did it for the Margaretville Blue Devils, who defeated the rival South Kortright Rams 2-1 to claim the Delaware League title at the National Soccer Hall of Fame complex in Oneonta. The crossover game was played Sunday when heavy rain washed out the contest originally scheduled for Saturday.
“I’m happy for our team, and for our seniors,” said Margaretville Head Coach Jeremey Marks, who took his team to the crossover match for the third consecutive year. “I could see in the second half that they wanted this one. It’s something that has eluded us in the last two years, and something that they wanted to accomplish before they graduated.”
The Blue Devils went down a goal in the first half, despite many opportunities to capitalize. South Kortright’s Trevor Holdridge put the Rams on the board after sending a ball into the goal from the left-hand side.
“I think we came out flat, and South Kortright came out the aggressor in the first 20 minutes,” Marks said. “They were more active offensively, they were winning the ball. Our defense did a pretty good job limiting their offensive opportunities, and the one they scored on I really don’t know how it was generated. But then we settled down a little bit and we got some opportunities.”
The Blue Devils had a handful of chances to tie it up in the first half, but were unable to find the back of the net.
“I would like our guys to come out with more of a sense of urgency in the first 15 minutes,” Marks said. “We’ve come out flat a lot. I think there have been a lot of games where we’ve come out and had a lot of opportunities to score and didn’t, and let teams hang around where we should have put a goal or two on the board. But we knew [Sunday] was going to be a tough game, and we knew they’d be ready to play, and they were. They gave us all that we could handle.”
At halftime, Marks said he told his team to “come out with a purpose.”
“I said if we can win the ball and spread the field and play our game, I told them we’re going to get the opportunities to score, and then we just have to convert,” he said. “And in the second half, we did a much better job winning the ball.”
The battle continued in the second half, with South Kortright maintaining its one-goal lead until just past the 20-minute mark, when the Blue Devils finally got on the board.
Junior Abraham Morales won the ball on the left side and cut the ball inside to beat two South Kortright defenders before sending the ball toward the far post. The ball bounced off the post and into the net to tie the game at one apiece and to shift an already-turning tide of momentum in Margaretville’s favor.
“In a 1-0 game, whether you’re up or down, that next goal is crucial,” Marks said. “Basically, in a one-goal game, if you’re down it puts you in a bigger hole; if you’re up, it lets a team back in. … I think once Abraham got that goal with 20 minutes to go, it seemed to settle us down a little bit and I thought from that point we generated some more opportunities and played our game.”
The momentum shift was undeniable, as it led to the Blue Devils’ second goal and what would be the game-winner with less than 10 minutes remaining. Javier Martinez drove a ball across the goal mouth to the far post, where Tyler Smith was waiting to drill it into the back of the net for a 2-1 Margaretville lead, which they held on to for the title.
“It was a postseason-type game,” Marks said. “I think for our team, it was important to play a quality opponent like South Kortright with sectionals approaching. It’s been such a long layoff; we hadn’t played since Saturday, and we don’t play until next Saturday, so to get a game in between is important, but to get a game against such a good team is even more important, and I think it can only help us as we go into the postseason.”
The Blue Devils received a first-round BYE in the Section IV Class D tournament, which begins today. They will host the winner of today’s match-up between Gilbertsville-Mt. Upton and Hunter-Tannersville at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
In preparation for the postseason, Marks said, his goal for his team is to stay sharp.
“Stay fit, work on pretty much every aspect of the game, work on our set pieces and just try to keep the guys focused, because they’re ready to play. I’ve got to kind of control that until Saturday, so we’re doing what we can and working on situations we may face down the road.”
“We’re taking one game at a time,” he added. “At this point you throw records out the window; everybody’s 0-0 and I think we understand if we don’t come out and play well, we could be going home. We lost in the finals last year, so I hope our players remember what that feels like, and I hope they don’t want their season to end.”
The Blue Devils will host the second round of the sectional tournament at Margaretville Central School at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“It’s nice to have a home game,” Marks said. “We have great community support, our fans are loud and they do a nice job cheering for us, and so we’re looking forward to that atmosphere on Saturday, whoever our opponent is.”