By Greg Klein
The Daily Star
---- — ONEONTA — Morris earned its second straight Section Four Class D girls soccer championship Saturday at the Wright National Soccer Campus.
The swollen, red eyes of the Mustangs told another story, though, one that included Franklin as a co-champion and the team that will represent Section Four in the state tournament this season.
Jessie Downin’s shoulder-high goal to the left side capped a 3-2 shootout victory for the Purple Devils, who played defending sectional champion Morris to a 1-1 tie after 80 minutes of regulation and four scoreless overtime periods that added another 30 minutes to Saturday’s final.
The game officially counts as a tie, but Franklin moved on via the shootout, which is used only to determine which team will advance to the next round.
“That’s a tough way for anybody to lose,” said Morris coach Rhoda Flint, whose fourth-seeded team edged No. 3 seed Franklin for the Tri-Valley League’s West Division title this season. “I don’t see why any team should have to lose that way.”
Sophomore forward Downin sent the decisive kick past Morris goalie Katie Humphris, who cheated the other way before changing direction. Humphris managed to get her hands on the ball but failed to knock it away, giving first-time sectional champion Franklin (15-2-1) a berth in a state quarterfinal against Section Three winner Poland at 3 p.m. Saturday at Fulton High.
“This is the first time a girls team from Franklin has ever won a sectional title,” said 33rd-year coach J.J. Laing, a Franklin graduate who still serves the district as a teacher’s assistant. “And the last time any team from Franklin won a sectional title, you would have to go back to 1969 or ‘70 and the last of the run of great boys basketball teams we had.”
Downin’s shot marked the second straight clutch pk for Franklin, which forged a 2-2 tie in the shootout when Marisa Cawley beat Humphris on the Purple Devils’ final attempt in the five-kick opening round.
Alexis Forgit and Kelsea Webster converted pks for Morris (15-1-4), as did Jordan Beers for Franklin as the Purple Devils faced a 2-1 deficit with only Cawley left. After Cawley’s shot went in just under the crossbar to tie it, Morris freshman Liana Garry started the sixth round with a high miss that set up Downin for the shootout winner.
Much like the pk round, the actual game could have went either way.
Humphris (nine saves) and Franklin goalie Haley Downin (12 saves), who each made dramatic, fingertip saves in the shootout, turned away several opportunities throughout regulation, two mandatory, 10-minute overtimes, and two five-minute, sudden-victory periods.
Beers opened the scoring five minutes into the second half, taking a pass from Jessie Downin at the left of the 18-yard line, dribbling into the box and shooting inside the far post.
It took Morris nearly 30 minutes to tie it, but the Mustangs did with 7:19 left in regulation. Leboffe’s cross pulled Haley Downin out of the goal, giving Garry a good angle to find the left corner for a 1-all deadlock.
“Being a young team, I thought we could have quit right there,” Laing said. “It is to the credit of our girls that we didn’t.”
The division rivals were nearly even during the regular season as well. Morris won, 2-1, on Sept. 21 in Franklin. The Purple Devils went on to win 12 straight, including a 1-0 victory at Morris on Oct. 12.
“This is the way the game is supposed to be played,” said Flint, whose team shared the Tri-Valley League title with Milford this season. “Two teams working very hard for the win.”
“It is kind of special how well we played,” he said. “I thought our goalie, Haley Downin, played great today, and their keeper did a real nice job, too.”