By Brian C. Horey Contributing Writer
The Daily Star
---- — 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.”
Westhill’s Tom Kinsella then looped the ball into the left side of the goal, although it appeared as if his shot had bounced back into play off the near post.
“When I saw that my players didn’t question it, I figured it must have been the right call,” Brannan said.
Following the match, SUNY Delhi men’s soccer coach Doug McKee confirmed that Kinsella’s shot was good. McKee, who attended as a spectator, said the ball curved just inside the near post and bounced back into the field off the rear support.
Brannan still took exception to what he called an “inconsistent application of the rules” by the referee crew, which carded the Jackets three times. Westhill received no cards.
“At one point, I had a player taken down three times in a row with no foul or card and when we touched them we got a yellow,” said Brannan, referring to the cards issued to Bischoff, Alex VanDeusen and Joe Ignone. “It just didn’t seem right.”
OHS also lost Courtney near the end of the match to an injury. He was carried off the field after taking a hard hit to his left thigh in front of the goal.
“We came out and executed our game,” said Brannan, who will lose nine seniors to graduation. “The adjustments we made at halftime and the commitments to run more and play more uptempo was very satisfying.”
Westhill advanced to a state semifinal against Section Five’s Livonia at 8 a.m. this Saturday in Middletown, where the Class B state final will be played at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
Westhill 3, Oneonta 1
CLASS B STATE TOURNAMENT
Quarterfinal at Liverpool High
Oneonta 0 1 - 1
Westhill 2 1 - 3
4-Oneonta (13-5): Theo Malone 1-0.
3-Westhill (19-1): Jared Ristoff 1-0, Tom Kinsella 1-0, Barak Ben Yehuda 1-1.
Shots-corner kicks: O 20-10; W 10-6.
Goalies: Jeremy Leary (O) 9; Chris Burrows (W) 10.