Top-seeded Fillmore overcomes adversity, net 3 goals in last 5 minutes to clinch 3rd D1 Finals berth in 4 seasons after shutout of No. 4 Keshequa
Photo gallery and stories by Chris Brooks, sports editor, wellsvillesports.com
PERRY — Not very often this season has there been an opportunity for Fillmore to meet adversity square in the face. Through thick and thin, the Eagles have been resilient in every single battle they have been a part of.
17 games up. 17 games down.
Class D1’s top seed found themselves two more giant steps away from glory once again, and although it’s been one smooth ride, Fillmore ran into their first traffic jam of the year on the soccer interstate highway — No. 4 Keshequa, their opposition from their Class D1 Finals appearance back during the COVID-stricken 2020 campaign.
Almost every emotion that you can think of was expressed and displayed in some way during certain points of Tuesday’s battle in Perry between the Indians and Eagles. To name a few: Hopefulness, dissatisfaction, frustration, most of which affected the top seeds throughout the course of the evening, as Keshequa was able to successfully hold a red-hot offense capable of taking complete command, at an overwhelming standstill.
The Indians had control of the game in the palm of their hands, forcing them to work from the inside out all night long while coercing Fillmore into a rare position that they hadn’t seen all season — a magnitude of immense duress, causing multiple turnovers back the other way on defense for the team in white and orange.
It became increasingly difficult for the Eagles to work their way through, as time went on. But at the same time, the defense held its own by keeping Keshequa away from cashing in any opportunities they may have had a chance to record. For the longest time on the board, there was no score.
With overtime on the horizon, and time soon becoming the biggest factor in play, both teams had to act quickly. As Glenn Frey would say: “The heat is on.”
With Keshequa stacking everything up against the Eagles on both ends of the pitch, the top seeds continued to fight back, whittling away more and more. Much to the extent where it would perhaps create a turning point with under 10 minutes remaining, after what seemed to be the game’s icebreaker, was not meant to be.
But instead of adversity continuing to shroud around the Eagles despite the missed chance, they used it as a bargaining chip for the remainder of the homestretch. It was at that point that Fillmore had pushed their chips to the center of the table. All or nothing.
One of the moments early on in the first half was a discussion between assistant coach Jordan Mullen, and Fillmore junior Eben Schilke. The biggest piece of his advice that the coach offered one of his big offensive playmakers — go and be The Man.
With minimal time left to work with, Eben Schilke was indeed him.
Like the lyrics in the self-titled hit by The Killers, Schilke had a plan and knew the direction in the lay of the land. He knew the score like the back of his hand. On a play that began with a Layton Sanasith pass across the field deep in the Indians zone, the ball would work counterclockwise to him with Zach Sisson being the last to dish along his helper on a wide-open play in the slot, letting his shot roll into the net next to the right post with 5:29 left to play to get the Eagles onto the board.
Once that first goal was on the board, another one of those feelings can be felt all around the Eagles — relief. That wasn’t all either.
Schilke opened up the door, and then Mitch Ward slammed it shut on the Indians.
To help finish off the team’s third trip to the Class D1 Finals in four seasons, the Fillmore senior went on a shopping spree by removing all doubt and removing all of the adversity that there was left to overcome, running the table by scoring two more goals in 35 seconds to capture the jackpot in one of the most explosive and emphatic ends to a game this season — a 3-0 shutout to send Keshequa home packing.
“I told them that this kind of game was going to be the best thing for us,” said Eagles coach Jarrett Vosburg. “You don’t get better by playing bad teams. Keshequa was a phenomenal opponent, and they battled all night long. You can’t say enough about the game they were able to give us. On a night where things were not quite clicking well for us offensively, we were still able to find a way and get the job done. It showed us that we can win in different ways, and that’s what happened tonight.”
You could say that across the 80 minute contest that both teams have had a multitude of chances come and go on the offensive side of the spectrum. The vast majority of which stemmed from the Eagles (18-0) in the early stages, with the best of opportunities perhaps coming from Ward off a corner kick just past halfway in the first half, leaping up higher than the rest of the bodies in front of the Keshequa goal to put a decisive head on the ball.
But the shot took a hard bounce off the turf and sailed skywards, overtop the crossbar and out of harm’s way for the Indians.
From that point forward, the game would lay in the hands of No. 4 seeds. The Eagles would then find their outside lanes sealed shut by an aggressive and relentless defensive pressure from the Indians, forcing them to try and work from the inside out. As a result, the Indians coerced the Eagles into turning the ball over multiple times, as well as several other miscues to throw them off-kilter.
Although the Indians were able to successfully stymie the Eagles, Fillmore would do the same in return in their defensive zone, foiling any developing rushes their opposition would provide back the other way themselves.
Hence, a scoreless first half of play.
“We’ve been preaching all night to try and get the ball to the corner, and it just wasn’t opening up for us,” Vosburg said. “Give them a lot of credit for putting us under as much duress as possible in the middle of the field, and forcing us to turn the ball over. I’m really proud of the way they were able to respond to it late in the second half, and how they were able to overcome this adversity through it all.”
For much of the second half, it was the same story for the Indians, as they kept the Eagles under an extravagant amount of duress with the pressure beginning to boil over even more. As time continued to tick away at regulation, with under 10 minutes left to play, the time to act was now for the top seeds.
And what a time to strike it was. After their first original attempt to score was denied by the Indians defense, the Eagles made sure a few transitions later, that the door would bust open as Sanasith’s cross-field pass worked its way around the top of the 18 until the ball landed on the foot of Sisson, where he was able to hand off to a wide-open Schilke in front of him in the slot, firing off a huge shot to the near post and in with under six minutes left to finally crack the ice.
That wasn’t the only time the Eagles were able to finally reach the back of the net. Just two minutes later, Mitch Ward had something to say.
One of Section V’s leading scorers made his presence known with not one, but two humongous pieces of insurance in a span of 35 seconds finding the back of the Keshequa net — both on breakways from the Indians defense, as Sanasith and Henry Sardina both sent along incredible passes up the field to set up the goals, branching the lead out just as quick as they broke the ice to remain in the front seat for good.
“Schilk, he’s a great young junior. He’s a great kid, and he had a rough first half. He would even agree, and I am so proud of the way he was able to respond in the second half by finally getting us on the board,” said Vosburg. “It’s a testament to his grit, character and his ability to battle his way through adversity. Keshequa made it their mission to keep Mitch off the scoresheet. They almost did, but he’s the type of kid that will never give up, and never quit. He always finds ways, so it was really awesome to see him get his share at a crucial time in the game.”
Fillmore would go on to outshoot Keshequa by an 11-4 count, with Luke Colombo making all four saves to earn the clutch shutout in between the posts.
The Eagles are now off to their third Class D1 Finals in four years, as they get set to square off with No. 2 Harley Allendale-Columbia for all of the marbles right back in Perry on Friday, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
The Class D2 Finals between No. 2 Houghton Academy and No. 1 Mount Morris will get underway to kick off the doubleheader first, at 5 p.m.
“Every game we’ve said from here on out, it was going to be a battle just like this,” Vosburg said. “We have to show up and put our best foot forward, and see what happens with it. We have a great crew here, and I could not be any more proud of their effort tonight. If we can keep the mindset of putting that foot forward correctly, we can take care of business like I know we can.”
Hinsdale falls to Mount Morris in 5-0 shutout
PERRY — The No. 4 Bobcats of Hinsdale were met with a fast and furious beginning of Tuesday evening by top-seeded Mount Morris in their Class D2 Semifinal battle in Perry, as the Blue Devils took advantage of nearly everything that came their way to provide an electric first half that saw them propel into the lead for good, en route to a 5-0 shutout to move onto Friday’s Finals.
Mount Morris was able to set the tone fairly quickly against Hinsdale (7-9-1) with a big 3-0 lead at the break, adding two more pieces of insurance in the first 10 minutes of play in the second half to seal the victory up, ultimately for good.
In-depth statistics were not made available to report upon publication.
The season is over for the Bobcats, as they wrap up their campaign with a record of 7-9-1 overall.
Class D2 Semifinals
No. 2 Houghton Academy 2, No. 3 Northstar 1
GENESEO — They have been the thorn in Houghton Academy’s side not only this season, but as well as the last.
No. 3 Northstar has held possession the number of the Panthers ever since their head-to-head meetings came into fruition a season ago, garnering wins in all four meetings thus far.
The hope for the Knights was to prove that third time can be the charm. Instead, it would wind up being a battle that would come straight down to the wire in what was their closest horn-locking yet, with a trip to the Class D2 Finals on the line Tuesday night at Geneseo.
Head coach Jeff Prentice knew what was at stake for his second-seeded Panthers. It was just a matter of holding Northstar at a standstill.
“You have to know your path forward. They beat us in a 5-1 game up there that we didn’t not play well in at all, and then a 4-1 game down at home where we played some better soccer,” he said. “We played them pretty evenly that time around, and there were some moments. We were able to start tightening things together. This has been the best we’ve played all season, and because of that, we were able to hold their moments in check while creating some of our own after some adjustments.”
Just one of those moments for Houghton Academy? How about a Pedro Rebello game-winner?
With the game all tied at one with very minimal time remaining in regulation, Rebello went for it all off a corner kick on the near side. With Lucas Matias sending it in on the Northstar cage, the Houghton Academy clutch scorer soared above the rest of the bodies in front of the Knights cage to head in an incredible corner with 3:29 left to play, giving the Panthers the goal they needed to finally exact revenge against the No. 3 seeds with their first trip to the Finals in 19 years with a 2-1 victory.
“It was a corner that Pedro knocked in from about a foot or two away from the post in front. He lifted it perfectly, and it was an amazing shot,” Prentice said. “He’s been doing that all year for us. We outplayed them most of the game, but they really started to go crazy in the last 10 minutes, and we were barely able to hold on. To get that goal in the last minutes to keep Northstar off of us, that was exciting to say the least.”
How the Panthers (12-5-1) got there was after breaking a late second half tie with Northstar after they originally opened up the scoring with a 1-0 lead at the break to work with, as Brian Patipewe was the first to score on the first of Matias’ two assists coming near midway of the opening half.
The lead for Houghton Academy would hold all the way down to the wire when Northstar found their way onto the board through the Panthers defense with Lorenzo Danesi connecting with the game-tying tally off a Justin Robinson pass on the way in to deadlock the game at one on each side with 12 minutes left to go.
Momentum was created by the Knights after tying the game, as they continued to push the Panthers closer and closer to the edge with time in regulation beginning to run out. But in the clutch, they would remain resilient, as Matias’ biggest assist of the night came at no better time to take the lead back. With 3:29 left to play, Rebello was able to put away the game with one hit off the head, scoring the game-winning goal off the massive corner kick chance to send Houghton Academy to their first Class D2 Final since 2003.
The two goals for Houghton Academy came off just three shots, as Northstar outshot the Panthers by a 9-3 count. In net, Marco Zanini made eight saves to pick up the victory.
On Friday, the Panthers will now go for it all in their first trip to the Finals in nearly two decades, with the chance of capturing their first Class D2 Championship in the same swing, as they now get set to square off against top-seeded Mount Morris back up north in Perry, beginning at 5 p.m.
The Class D1 Final between Harley Allendale-Columbia and Fillmore will follow after the conclusion, at 7:30 p.m.
“I haven’t seen a whole lot from Mount Morris, but they look fast, quick, aggressive. They love to pressure and take advantage of the turnovers,” said Prentice. “We have to play as great of a game as we did today. For a school like us to make their first Finals in a long time, it’s incredible. These kids love to play soccer, and some of them had a distant goal to try and get this far. To see it all come together, and it doesn’t happen very often, you could tell that the kids wanted it. We had some struggles early on, but every game we’ve built more confidence. They’re definitely believers now.”