LIVERPOOL — Oneonta High coach Alex Brannan knows soccer.
But not even he could predict the outcome of a Class B state quarterfinal between his Yellowjackets and Section Three champion Westhill, which earned a 3-1 victory Saturday at Liverpool High.
“The next goal will decide the outcome of the game,” 26th-year OHS coach Brannan told his boys at halftime, which the Section Four champion Yellowjackets entered facing a 2-0 deficit. “If they score, it’s 3-0 and we’re in trouble. If we get it and close to 2-1, then we have the momentum to carry us through.”
Oneonta ended up scoring the next goal, putting Westhill on the defensive in the second half until Theo Malone lined a 12-yard shot past two defenders and goalie Chris Burrows with 14 minutes, 41 seconds left to pull the Jackets to 2-1.
An Oneonta squad that gave up first-half goals to Jared Ristoff and Barak Ben Yehuda suddenly took charge after the break with aggressive challenges for 50-50 balls, repeated drives into the box and tight defensive marks. That forced the Warriors (19-1) to drop back on defense to protect Burrows against crashes by Malone, Kragh Delello and J.D. Courtney.
Westhill’s size and speed held off the Jackets until Malone wound up with the ball and space at midfield. He ran past one defender, then raced past another before beating a diving Burrows to the far post.
“We knew they were big and fast,” Brannan said. “We simply needed to step up the pace and play quicker than we did in the first half.”
Oneonta (13-5) ended up taking 14 of its 20 shots in the second half, but Westhill put the game out of reach about 10 minutes after Malone scored.
Oneonta’s Paul Bischoff drew a yellow card for a slide tackle, setting up a Westhill restart. That sent Bischoff off the field, and the line referee on the bench side said Brannan failed to send a replacement to the scorer’s table in time to put OHS back at full strength. Brannan protested that there is no set time limit to sub in when the clock is stopped because of a card and the referee responded: “I thought you were just going to play a man down.”