Unbeaten Blue Devils advance to tourney semi finals

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By John Bernhardt
It was only a matter of time.
For the last couple of games, Margaretville striker Kyle Short was making a difference with his strong arms, but not his feet. Short’s long sideline throw-ins racked up a pile of scoring assists and have been a consistent success factor throughout the Blue Devils’ undefeated fall soccer campaign.

But, recently, when opportunity knocked, presenting Short an opening to deliver with his feet, the senior striker’s shots have been off mark, a whisker too high or slightly to the outside of the goal.
All that changed Saturday when Short scored three times to lift the Blue Devils past Morris, 6-2, in the Section IV Class D quarterfinals. Short also added an assist, lofting a high cross that found his favorite target, Matt VanValkenburg, who headed it home for a goal.

Not quite
VanValkenburg used his head in two near scores at the start of the game, one off a Short throw in and the other at the end of a corner kick. The Blue Devil junior’s second attempt was batted away by a lunging Morris goalie, Aidan Staib, with Cooper Reither racing forward to play the carom. Reither’s rebound shot deflected away from the nets off a Morris defender.

Roberto Sarabia continued an impressive run of offense by breaking a scoreless tie at 28:47 of the first half. Sarabia settled a Sam Gil chip pass, pausing over the ball momentarily until a Morris defender lunged forward. Sarabia’s struck, rifling a screaming line drive inside the near pole that literally froze Staib on the goal line. The Margaretville senior is a model of consistency, scoring at least one goal in every game he’s played since joining the Blue Devils’ squad this fall.

Devils in control
Margaretville dominated play throughout the opening half, but more than 17 minutes passed before the Blue Devils could add a second goal. Reither teed up a corner kick, sending a volley to the front of the goal that Dylan Shaffer picked out of the air into the nets for the Blue Devils’ second score.
Short’s first goal came with 2:21 to play in the half. VanValkenberg settled a ball on the offensive side of midfield and grounded a pass finding Sarabia two or three steps to the right of the middle of the box. Sarabia one touched a pass to Short a dozen yards to his left with Short changing directions again, grounding a shot left to right into the far corner of the goal.

On the other end of the field, senior James Warner continued to commandeer his troops as an almost invincible defensive shield. Warner, Shaffer, Yair Sanchez, Victor Sarabia, Ben Fairbairn and Brandon Bush exercised stifling control of that end of the field that made it almost impossible for Morris to even launch a shot. Morris took only one shot on goal in the half.

Short quickly found the nets for the second time, scoring only six minutes into the final half. The scoring series was a rarity that started when Reither attempted a through pass that nicked a Morris defender and rolled some 25 yards toward the end line. Racing back attempting to thwart the ball’s forward progress and prevent a Margaretville corner kick, the Morris defender stopped the ball in time but his forward momentum sent him beyond the end line. VanValkenberg followed the defender’s pursuit of the ball, played the ball unguarded, and delivered a cross to Short for the score.

Less than two minutes later, it was VanValkenburg and Short again, but this time in reverse order. On the sideline for another throw-in, Short opted to play small ball this time, dropping the ball to a nearby Yair Sanchez. Sanchez toed the ball back to Short who lifted a perfect cross that VanValkenburg directed with his head into the nets for Margaretville’s fifth score.

Hat trick complete
Short concluded his productive offensive outing with 26:20 to play in the game. From just beyond the right corner of the box, Short blasted a shot directed at the far corner that deflected off a Morris defender and headed back in the Margaretville striker’s direction. With Staib first moving to his left to try and stop Short’s original kick, then reacting to the redirection by planting his outside foot and trying to reverse his movement, Short moved forward and grounded a shot back in the same direction he originally intended, creating an impossible complication for the Morris goalie. Margaretville 6, Morris 0.

Morris would score twice in the last 15 minutes after Margaretville coach Jeremey Marks had cleared his deep bench to allow all his defensive lines a chance to play.

Gilboa up next
Margaretville advances to Wednesday’s semifinal match-up against Gilboa at the Hall of Fame fields in Oneonta with the winner advancing to the Section IV championship game at the same site on Saturday. The 13th seeded Wildcats have turned their season around, winning their final three games of the season to qualify for post season play, upsetting fourth-seeded Delhi, 3-2, on Wednesday and then toppling fourth seeded Tri-Valley West Division champion, Edmeston, on Saturday to reach the semi-finals.

RCS teams eliminated
Both the Roxbury boys and girls soccer squads were eliminated from the Section IV playoffs in opening round play last week.
The Lady Rockets season came to an end Tuesday night in Morris when Roxbury fell, 4-1, to the Mustangs. Morris (12-3-2) grabbed a 2-0 first half lead then Meghan Barringer added two more Mustang goals in the second half.
Shannon Sprague netted Roxbury’s lone goal in the second half. Roxbury finishes the season at 7-8-1.
The Roxbury guys (9-8) dropped a 4-0 contest to sixth seeded Milford (12-4) on Wednesday. Peyton Griffiths nabbed the game’s first goal and later added an assist for the Wildcats.
Griffiths’ strike was the lone Milford goal in the opening half, but the Wildcats got goals from Blake Elliot and Eli Rutledge and also scored on an own goal in the second half.