By Dean Russin Sports Editor
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — If at first you don’t succeed ...
Oneonta High’s boys tried and tried again to snap a tie Saturday at the Wright National Soccer Campus, going 0-for-5 in shots on goal and coming up empty on eight corner kicks in the second half of the Section Four Class B championship game.
But everything finally fell into place a little less than five minutes into overtime, when junior forward Peter Paluch crossed an 18-yarder into the upper-right side of Chenango Forks’ goal to give the Yellowjackets a 2-1 victory and their third sectional title in the last five seasons.
“This group is interesting,” said OHS coach Alex Brannan, whose program made its fifth straight appearance in the Section Four Class B final Saturday. “We pulled it out. I don’t know how, but we pulled it out.”
It’s not like Brannan wasn’t watching as his second-seeded Yellowjackets (13-4) struggled to poke one past Forks goalie Arthur Ingraham (seven saves). Instead, he seemed bewildered by the numerous whiffs, miskicks and close calls that often followed well-placed corner kicks by Zach Joseph, deep throw-ins by Mike Wolstenholme and outside charges by Theo Malone and Kragh Delello.
“It’s just the way this team is,” said Brannan, who received four saves from Jeremy Leary. “We do get a lot of chances and for most of the season, they’re going in. It’s like sometimes they’re not anticipating; they’re more reacting. At this level, once you get deeper, you can’t just react.”
Paluch anticipated the decisive play perfectly, though, falling off to the left side of the penalty box as Ian Oliver cut across from the right side.
“I saw Ian coming with the ball and a defender stepped to him, so he slipped it to me,” said Paluch, who scored the go-ahead goal in Oneonta’s 3-1 semifinal defeat of Dryden the previous Saturday. “I took a touch and shot it. I was aiming for the far side. To score the game-winning goal for sectionals, you just can’t believe it.”
OHS stood in disbelief twice in the early stages of the second half as well. The first came 29 seconds after halftime, when fourth-seeded Chenango Forks (9-8) took the opening touch down the middle of the field and tied the score with a high shot to the right side.
“It happened quickly,” Blue Devils coach Jarod McMullen said of Brandon Dutcher’s goal, which came off an assist from Jesse Ingraham. “We had to make some adjustments and settle down. That had a lot to do with it, just settling into the game. It’s a big game. We haven’t been here since 2008. So it took us a whole half to settle in and once we did, we put one in.”
Oneonta countered a few minutes later with a long throw-in by Wolstenholme that set up a scrum inside the 18-yard box. Arthur Ingraham tracked the zig-zagging ball, then dived backwards to stop it.
“The goalie was on the goal line and he reached back,” Brannan said. “Kragh was in the net and I was asking (the line referee), ‘Are you sure you were in the right position? ... because from where I’m standing, it looked like it was in the net.’ “
Said McMullen: “We’ve got three officials and we had an official right there right in position. He’s got a better look than I do. I’m watching to see if his flag goes up and he never made the signal. He’s right on the line and he was in position. He made the right call. He was right there.”
Perhaps even more surprising is that OHS failed to score while the clock was actually running for almost 85 minutes. Paluch’s left-footer went in 4:22 into overtime for the Jackets, who finished with advantages of 10-6 in shots and 12-1 in corner kicks.
“Some of it is just our mistakes thinking the guys behind us are going to head it in,” said Delello, who took a team-high four shots. “We have to be selfish and hit the ball in. If you’ve got the shot, take it. If you’re on the 5-yard line, just shoot.”
Theo Malone didn’t have a chance to get that close on what was clearly Oneonta’s best scoring chance in the first half. Malone won a race to the ball down the left side and split a pair of CF defenders with a nifty tap to his right, giving him an open lane toward the goal. He ended up face-down in the grass, though, as Jesse Ingraham prevented a one-on-one with a trip from behind.
That stopped the clock and gave Malone a penalty kick with 4 minutes to go before halftime. Although Arthur Ingraham guessed correctly with a dive to his left, Malone’s shot was too high and too fast to touch as OHS took a 1-0 lead.
Paluch’s winner came on the first shot of overtime, sending the Yellowjackets to a state quarterfinal this Saturday against Westhill or Skaneatles at a Section Three site to be determined. Westhill (17-1) is the top seed for the Section Three Class B Tournament and will play No. 7 Skaneatles (12-7) in their final at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Liverpool.
Notes: OHS played without senior defender Paul Bischoff, who received a red card during the sectional semifinal against Dryden. Brannan said a Dryden player “was punching him when he was on the ground” and Bischoff did not retaliate, but both players were ejected. Brannan said he was unsuccessful in appealing Bischoff’s red card early last week. ... Oneonta also secured the 2011 Class B sectional title with a goal on the first shot of overtime as Stijn van Pel scored to give the Jackets a 3-2 win over Susquehanna Valley. ... The last time OHS failed to reach a sectional final was 2008, when the Jackets exited the tournament with a 2-1 quarterfinal loss to Chenango Forks.
Oneonta 2, CF 1
SECTION FOUR CLASS B
Championship at WNSC
Chenango Forks 0 1 0 - 1
Oneonta 1 0 1 - 2
4-Chenango Forks (9-8): Brandon Dutcher 1-0, Jesse Ingraham 0-1.
2-Oneonta (13-4): Theo Malone 1-0, Peter Paluch 1-0, Ian Oliver 0-1.
Shots-corner kicks: C 6-1; O 10-12.
Goalies: Arthur Ingraham (C) 7; Jeremy Leary (O) 4.
Dean Russin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.