ONEONTA — Margaretville is head and shoulders above the rest of the Delaware League.
Matt Van Valkenburg helped the Blue Devils prove it Saturday at the Wright National Soccer Campus, elevating to head in a pair of long-range throw-ins from Kyle Short in a 4-1 crossover defeat of South Kortright.
“Margaretville’s obviously a good team,” SK coach Bob VanValkenburgh said shortly after his Rams were outshot, 18-4, in their eighth straight crossover appearance. “They just keep coming at you and coming at you.”
Roberto Sarabia made the first move in Margaretville’s first DL title victory since a 2-1 win over SK in 2009, but his opening goal certainly didn’t come easily.
After misfiring three times, Sarabia finally found the net with 17 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first half. SK goalie Brett Post tracked Sarabia’s laser from the left side of the 18-yard box but had little chance to stop it as the ball nipped a defender and kicked left on the way in. Ben Fairbairn earned an assist on the play for the Blue Devils (15-0), who made it 2-0 less than six minutes later.
Margaretville penetrated the top of the 18-yard box and a collision ensued as two SK players charged over to defend. Officials ruled a penalty kick was in order, much to the dismay of VanValkenburgh, and Sam Gil drove a hard shot over Post with 11:45 to go before halftime.
“They know what they’re doing,” VanValkenburgh said. “They get to all the right spots and they’re well-coached.”
The Rams (9-4-2) got one back seconds after Connor Woznick was pancaked inside the box by two Margaretville defenders on an SK corner kick. After Woznick limped off the field, Griff Metzko converted the penalty kick with a shot to the right side as Margaretville keeper Eric Mathiesen faded left. Metzko’s goal came 2:41 into the second half and gave the Rams a chance to win its first outright crossover crown since a 3-0 defeat of Davenport in 2011.
It didn’t take long for the Blue Devils to squash the thought of an SK comeback, though.
Short soon ended up with the ball on the sideline and threw what may as well have been a corner kick to Van Valkenburg in the middle of the 18-yard box. Van Valkenburg jumped up for a wicked flick that went off of Post’s hands but landed inside the near post for a 3-1 Margaretville lead 4:55 into the second half.
“He’s one of our guys who can jump up and get the ball,” said Short, whose team tied SK for the DL crown last season. “He either flicks it or heads in the ball. Whatever works.”
The play worked again with 26:54 left as Van Valkenburg turned another deep throw-in from Short into a header to the far post for the final margin.
“Usually on the bigger fields, I play more in and you try to get the flick on,” Van Valkenburg said. “But today, the wind helped us out. They guarded me, but they lost me when I was in the air. The ball moved in the wind, too, so it’s kind of hard to defend.”
That all but secured a victory that Margaretville celebrated with a smattering of handshakes and back pats, indicating the Blue Devils are playing for much more than a league title this season.
“Gotta be,” VanValkenburgh said when asked if Margaretville’s the clear favorite for the upcoming Section Four Class D Tournament. “They wear you down on the defensive end. They’re fast and it seems like there’s always three guys running through. They’re solid.”
Margaretville has a first-round bye as the No. 1 seed and will host No. 9 Morris (8-4-2) of the Tri-Valley League or No. 8 Southern Cayuga (4-8-2) of the Interscholastic Athletic Conference in a sectional quarterfinal this Saturday.
“We had a good year last year, we had a lot of guys coming back and the guys put a lot of work in,” said Blue Devils coach Jeremey Marks, who didn’t seem the least bit surprised by his team’s 15-0 start this season. “We’re worried about the first opponent, the winner of Morris-Southern Cayuga. Morris is well-coached, they’ve got a good team and a good program. I don’t know much about Southern Cayuga, but they play good teams every day, so they’re obviously improving every day.”
SK drew the No. 7 seed and a Delaware League rival for Wednesday’s first round as the Rams will host No. 10 Stamford. The winner will advance to a Saturday quarterfinal at No. 2 seed Cherry Valley-Springfield (15-1), which is coming off a 3-2 overtime defeat of Edmeston in the Tri-Valley League final this past Saturday at the WNSC.
If Margaretville and SK are to meet again this season, it will be in the Nov. 2 sectional final back at the WNSC as the teams are on opposite sides of the Class D brackets.
Margaretville 4, SK 1
at Wright National Soccer Campus
South Kortright 0 1 - 1
Margaretville 2 2 - 4
South Kortright (9-4-2): Griff Metzko 1-0.
Margaretville (15-0): Roberto Sarabia 1-0, Sam Gil 1-0, Matt Van Valkenburg 2-0, Ben Fairbairn 0-1, Kyle Short 0-2.
Shots-corner kicks: S 4-1; M 18-2.
Goalies: Bret Post (S) 5, Noah Dougherty (S) 1; Eric Mathiesen (M) 2.
Dean Russin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.