Assistant Sports Editor
HOOSICK, N.Y. -- The Hoosick Falls Central School boys soccer team made a tactical adjustment to try and thwart the attacking presence of Stillwater on Tuesday afternoon.
And while it looked shaky at times, the plan worked as the Panthers emerged from Delurey Field 2-1 winners over their Wasaren League rivals.
"Stillwater is always a good team, and they play really tough," Hoosick Falls coach Mike Young said. "Tactically, we did some things we don’t normally do to counter them today. We looked to play counterattacking soccer and we got two goals."
The first of which came on the team’s first counter of the day.
Just over a minute into the game, Alex LeBarge received possession and looked up. Max Haar was charging down the right, so LeBarge laid a ball into Haar’s path. Picking up possession, Haar sped forward before shooting across the face of goal to slot home.
"That [goal] was crucial," Drew Phillips said. "It set the tone for the game. We always want to come out like that, and Max put it in."
But it was a good thing the Panthers scored the early goal, because Stillwater came right back to try and level up the score.
With Ian Cepiel running down the left, the Warriors pressed the Panthers deep to try and create chances. They would get one early off of a corner kick, but with the ball heading towards goal Hoosick Fall’s Tyler Rondeau was able to make a goalline clearance to clear the ball away.
"We don’t play with just one guy in defense, we have a group of defenders that take it personal and want to keep the ball out of the net," Young said.
Over the next 15 minutes of play, Stillwater kept trying to push forward. Justin Farnan came close for the Warriors with a shot from distance, but the ball went right over the top of the crossbar and out of play.
But with Stillwater pushing foward, space was opened up at the back, and the Panthers capitalized on the space to open up a 2-0 lead.
Haar created this chance this time, as he dispossessed a Stillwater defender in the middle of the pitch, then turned and found Phillips charging at goal. Haar played a through ball into the path of Phillips, and the attacker was able to jet past the defense and slot home to give the Panthers the two-goal edge.
"Today was a testament to our team," Phillips said. "We can shift around if we need. Once we got those goals it helped us out because it allowed us to play more defensively."
At the end of the first half, Stillwater received a golden chance to pull a goal back. Panthers goalie Noah Chani was charged with having picked up the ball after it was played to him by one of his teammates, awarding Stillwater an indirect kick in the box.
But the chance would come to nothing, as the Panthers blocked two shots to keep the ball out of the net.
"We had them confused for the entire game," Stillwater coach Ian Lewis said. "But in the end it wasn’t our day. We had plenty of opportunities up top."
The Warriors would make it interesting to start the second half, though, as they were able to put a goal away just 20 seconds into the frame to make it 2-1.
Cepiel created and finished the chance when he picked off a pass just outside the Panthers’ penalty area and was able to hit it low and into the corner.
From there, Stillwater would test Chani and the Panthers defense for the rest of the game, but the back line was able to hold on and see the game out.
With his defensive line closing down space and blocking shots, Chani had to come up with two critical saves to keep the lead for his team, both coming in the closing stages.
The first was off a turnover. With Justin Flanagan getting the ball in a prime position, he put a shot on goal but Chani was able to dive to the ground and keep it out.
The second was off of a corner. Jake Foley put a great shot on net that probably should have gone in, but Chani was able to make a last-second save to secure the win.
"I don’t know if [Chani] will be happy with this game, but he made the saves he needed to," Young said.
Hoosick Falls move to 5-0-1 (4-0-1) on the year, and goes two points clear at the top of the Wasaren League standings. Stillwater falls to 4-0-2 (3-0-2) with the loss.