MCS Blue Devils advance to sectional semi-finals

By John Bernhardt
For all but one of the Southern Delaware County soccer teams, postseason play was “The Great Vanishing Act of 2011.”

The lose-and-go home finality of the Section IV playoffs seemed to shrink the size of the goals to the point where it was impossible to score. The Roxbury boys’ and girls’ teams and the Margaretville girls failed to score a single regulation time goal between them as each disappeared from the playoffs after opening round play. Only the Margaretville boys remain in action.

Wet start to season
For the Margaretville boys, the postseason playoffs offer an opportunity to prove they belong with the area Class D soccer elites. Margaretville’s season got off to a squishy start, the Blue Devils losing almost their entire preseason and their home playing field to the floods of Irene. Margaretville lost the first three games they played and did not look to be a factor in the 2011 soccer story.

But, quietly, almost unnoticed, Margaretville recovered. The turning point for the Blue Devils was the championship game of their own Nelson Tournament, a game played at Bard College. Margaretville battled a very strong Ellenville team to the wire, dropping an exciting 3-2 contest, and the Blue Devils began to believe they were for real.

Piece-by-piece, win-by-win, Margaretville clawed their way back into the Delaware League’s upper division race. The Blue Devils needed a win over Stamford in their last league game to force a time for the title and a chance to play for the league championship. Disappointment reigned when Margaretville dropped that game, 1-0. The Blue Devils entered the Section IV playoffs quietly as the number six seed.

Margaretville dominated play early in their opening round contest with Gilbertsville- Mount Upton a week ago today. The Blue Devils shot 14 times in the opening half to their opponent’s 2. Senior striker Ian Williams scored twice in the half to give the home team a lead they would never relinquish.

Williams handled a pass from Matt VanValkenburg and carried the ball down the right wing pushed it past the defensive fullback and then drive it toward the goal. Williams fired a shot, right to left, and into the nets for a score.

Later in the half, Peter Cella directed another pass at Williams, this time a long pass from the defensive side of the field, catching Williams in full stride. Williams got past the final defender and was tripped up as he drove one-on-one at the goalie. A penalty kick was awarded with Williams netting Margaretville’s final goal of the game.

Cooper Reither turned in a terrific first half performance for Margaretville in the midfield.
G-MU awakened down the stretch with several near scores, but the Blue Devils’ defense stiffened. James Warner’s speed on the outside, Sean Gauntt’s ability to turn G-MU’s action to the outside and some quick reaction saves by Mitch Hull preserved the shutout.

The Blue Devils made a statement in the quarterfinals Monday at the Wright National Soccer Complex in Oneonta. Another steely Blue Devils’ effort eliminated Tri-Valley Co-Champion Morris (12-2-2), 2-1.

Once again Margaretville dominated the early going, but it was Morris who would score. The Mustangs blasted a shot out of a scrum in front of the net, the ball striking a Blue Devils defender in the face. When the ball dropped it struck the defender’s hand and was whistled a handball. Levi Decker scored and with 12:03 left in the half, and Morris had a one-goal lead.

The Morris lead didn’t hold for long. Margaretville evened things up in the first minute of the final half when Matt VanValkenburg drove the ball deep down the left lane, turned the dribble toward the goal along the end line and was flattened. The Blue Devils were awarded a penalty kick.
Senior Iso Desic fired the free shot directly at Morris goalie Kerry Smith, but Smith had already started making his move to the right and could not recover in time to stop the score.

Less than a minute later, VanValkneburg found senior Peter Cella open to the right side of the 18. Cella settled the pass and lifted the game winner inside the far left post.

Margaretville’s second goal ignited Morris. The Mustangs pounded away for the remainder of the game, but the Blue Devils’ defense held. Adam VanValkenburg thwarted several promising Mustang charges, and Gaunt turned in another solid defensive effort. Mitch Hull was effective once again guarding the nets.

With five minutes to play, the Blue Devils looked to have added an insurance score. Cooper Reither crossed a perfect strike that Ian Williams played out of the air and into the goal. Williams was lined up directly in front of Smith, back to stomach, when he leapt, and the Blue Devils striker landed on top of the Morris tender as he landed. A roughing the goalie call nullified the score.
In winning, Margaretville advanced to face second seeded South Kortright, New York State’s top Class D boys’ soccer team. In beating Morris, the Blue Devils proved they belong in the conversation about 2011’s best boys Class D teams in Section IV. Wednesday in Oneonta, the Blue Devils will play for a chance play in the 2011 Class D Championship. Game time is 3 p.m.