By Dean Russin Sports Editor
The Daily Star
---- — Oneonta High’s boys and girls have been here a lot, but they don’t have much to show for it.
The Yellowjackets boys have reached three state soccer tournaments in the last five seasons and seven since 1998. But only once did they win it all, with a 1999 Class B state-championship team that went 23-0.
The tournament has been even tougher on the 19-time Section Four champion OHS girls, who have never won a state title. Not in 10 seasons with Jerry Mackey as head coach nor in the 30 seasons before that under his predecessor, Helen Sandford. To be fair, the girls state tournaments started a decade after Sandford became Oneonta’s first girls soccer coach. But 30 years is still a long time to go without.
“Not a lot of teams get to this stage,” said 26th-year OHS boys coach Alex Brannan, whose team won the Section Four Class B title last Saturday at the Wright National Soccer Campus with a 2-1 overtime defeat of Chenango Forks. “Yes, I’ve been there and it seems like we’re there every other year now. I bring a lot of players with me (to states) to give them a taste of it. They taste it and they want to get back there. They don’t like getting beat.”
OHS (13-4) will face Section Three champion Westhill (18-1) in a Class B state quarterfinal at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Liverpool High. The game will cap a state quarterfinal triple-header at Liverpool, which will host a Class D match between Margaretville and Watertown-IHC at noon and a Class C game between Lansing and Fabius-Pompey at 2:15 p.m.
Brannan said he scouted Westhill’s 2-1 victory over Skaneatles in the Section Three Class B final Tuesday, but he didn’t learn a whole lot about his next opponent.
“I don’t think they really showed me that much because they were playing each other for the third time this season,” Brannan said. “The strategies change a lot when you’re that familiar with a team. They were marking a lot of players, so both teams sort of nullified each other’s strengths.”
Brannan said a scouting report on Westhill wouldn’t help that much at this point in the season anyway.
“When you’re in regionals and you’re down to the final eight, you’re going to have to play well to win,” said Brannan, whose team has been practicing at Hartwick College’s Wright Stadium this week to prepare for Liverpool’s artificial turf. “If we come and play the way we can play, we’ll win. If we don’t, we’ll lose.”
Saturday’s winner will advance to an 8 a.m. state semifinal Nov. 16 at Middletown High, which will host the Class B state final at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 17. OHS is trying to become the first Section Four Class B state champion since Owego won the 2002 title. Edmeston (Class D in 2003) and Vestal (Class AA in 2007) are the only other Section Four teams to win state crowns since.
Oneonta’s girls (17-2-1) are attempting to make it to the state finals for the second straight season. They lost, 3-1 in overtime, to Greece Odyssey in the 2012 state title game.
To make it back, the Jackets will have to beat a 17-1-1 Spackenkill team that has won the last three Section Nine crowns, then win a state semifinal Nov. 16 in Cortland.
“We have to go in there like we’re playing Bronxville or we’re playing Seton, like we’re playing anyone who’s really, really good,” OHS senior Mariah Ruff said of Saturday’s 1 p.m. state quarterfinal against Spackenkill at Middletown High, the prize for beating Bronxville, 1-0, in a first-round state game Tuesday. “We have to play to our potential. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”
Ruff seemed cautious about being overconfident against Spackenkill, which lost, 4-1, to OHS in a first-round state tournament game two seasons ago.
“Two years ago is a long time,” she said. “A lot could have changed.”
Mackey said Saturday’s game should be a good test for his reigning Southern Tier Athletic Conference champion Yellowjackets, who also have won three sectional titles in a row.
“If you’re better, prove it,” said Mackey, whose other sectional crown came in 2004, his first season as Oneonta’s coach. “If we lose, it certainly won’t be for lack of intensity or lack of effort. I think our midfield matches up, but Spackenkill has been there three years in a row, too. I’m sure Spackenkill is looking forward to the opportunity, but we match up pretty well.”
Saturday’s winner moves on to a state semifinal at 5 p.m. Nov. 16 at Cortland, which will host the Class B state championship game at 4 p.m. Nov. 17.
No Section Four team has won a Class B state title since the start of the state tournaments in 1983.
The undefeated Margaretville boys and once-beaten Milford girls also will play state quarterfinals Saturday.
Delaware League champion Margaretville (18-0) drew Section Three’s Watertown-Immaculate Heart Central (15-3-1) for a Class D state quarterfinal at noon Saturday at Liverpool High. The winner advances to a 12:30 p.m. state semifinal Nov. 16 at Middletown High. The Class D state title game is slated for 1 p.m. Nov. 17 at the same site.
Margaretville has been off since last Saturday, when it beat Davenport, 3-2 in overtime, to win its first Section Four crown since 2009. The Blue Devils lost, 2-0, to Hamilton in the state quarterfinals that season.
Margaretville is looking to become the area’s first state champion since Edmeston won the Class D title in 2003. Oneonta (1999 Class B) and Roxbury (1982 Class D tie with Johnsburg) are the area’s only other boys state champs since the tournaments started in 1978.
“We’re in the final eight, so they’re all going to be pretty good,” Blue Devils coach Jeremey Marks said. “I think we match up well with them. We have some size that could hurt them and we’re healthy.”
Marks said Margaretville has never been past the state-quarterfinal round.
“We haven’t won one game after the sectional final,” he said. “Our kids are motivated for all the guys who have been to the next step and haven’t been able to advance. Maybe we can write a little history of our own.”
Milford’s girls (18-1), which won the Tri-Valley League this season under coach Chris Saggese, will face Section Three’s Poland (17-2) in a Class D state quarterfinal at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Norwich High.
The Wildcats edged Cherry Valley-Springfield, 1-0 in quadruple-overtime, last Saturday at the WNSC to advance to states for the first time since 2010. Poland is the defending state champion.
Milford is looking to become the first area girls state champion since 2008, when Edmeston tied S.S. Seward for the Class D title. The same season, Section Four’s Marathon tied York in the Class C state final. No Section Four girls soccer team has won a state championship since.
Downsville earned the last area girls state title outright as Class D champs in 2005.
Daily Star sports writer Rob Centorani contributed to this report. Dean Russin can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.