ONE MORE AWAY: Greenport rallies back in 2nd half to force OT, but Sanasith nets game-winner for Eagles to secure spot in Class D State Finals with 3-2 edge; will face State-rival Chazy for title
By CHRIS BROOKS, sports editor, Wellsvillesports.com
MIDDLETOWN — Faller Field. Middletown. A mere four hour trip eastward down Interstate-86, the Empire State’s biggest stage in the boys soccer realm now becomes the sole possessor of the limelight on the final weekend of the season.
It’s a grand platform that has become very familiar to the Fillmore Eagles, more notably in recent seasons. For the program, Saturday afternoon marked their third trip to the home of the Middies in four years. Reversing the calendar back to a season ago, the Eagles were on the cusp of capturing all of the State’s glory in the Finals, but ultimately would fall just shy of that grandeur against eventual Champion Mount Academy.
Jarrett Vosburg has seen it all unfold over the years serving as one of Jamie Mullen’s top assistants, to now as the man in the middle in his first season — a journey that has begun to unravel as one of the most dominant seasons in program history.
He knows how determined his team is to get over that hump. One more time.
“These guys can taste it,” he said. “They are motivated by coming up one win short last Fall. They have a very business-like mindset, and they are as laser focused as I’ve ever seen them. We know that we can compete in every way if we come out focused and play with the heart, the grit and determination that we have shown all season long.”
The Greenport Porters, representing the Long Island region in Section XI, served as the final hurdle that separated them from a return trip back to the Class D State Finals.
And it was not easy by any means.
Although Fillmore battled through thick and thin in the first half to create the opening against Greenport that they wanted, it was sewn back together ever so rapidly down the stretch in the last 40 minute period. Working their way towards a regulation-ending deadlock, it would then set up the battle for an exciting finish in extra time.
Both teams would go the extra mile in overtime. In the end, the Eagles would move one step closer towards fulfilling their destiny.
Being accountable for his 45th and 46th goals of the season earlier in the day, Mitch Ward handed out perhaps his biggest assist of the season for the Eagles. With minimal time left and little room for error, the Fillmore senior would not squander the opportunity to provide a game-ending bullseye one bit, as he dished along a phenomenal cross to the front of the Greenport net to his fellow captain, Layton Sanasith, burying it home to send the bench into a frenzy.
The goal would secure a spot for the Eagles back in the Class D State Finals on Sunday right back at Faller Field, where they draw one last, giant step closer towards claiming all of the glory at the end of the tunnel with a 3-2 overtime victory — their 22nd straight.
“I told the guys after regulation that nothing in this life is ever accomplished easily,” Vosburg said. “I am so incredibly proud that we did not fold, after allowing Greenport to come back in this game. That can be mentally draining to give up such a lead like that. But to have the fortitude to overcome it, and battle, and grind our way to that win while regaining our composure, that truly says a lot about this group and how much this game means to them.”
It all started with a fast 2-0 lead at the break, which was fronted by their leader Mitch Ward, scoring both of the team’s goals beginning right at the midway mark, connecting with Henry Sardina on a rush into the Greenport zone. With it, Ward was able to put the ball away with ease to deliver the game’s first strike.
Towards the end of the half, Ward would add his second and 46th of the season for the Eagles (22-0), with Zach Sisson dishing along a pass himself to finish off, garnering a huge two-goal cushion to control going into the break.
But on the other side, the Porters jacked up the heat.
In the first 10 minutes of the second half, Greenport immediately rocketed home a pair of goals in 44 seconds from both Luis Masin and Milton Veliz to tie the game at two for the remainder of the session, despite a number of chances to try and take the lead right back were obtained by Fillmore.
“It’s not easy, we had missed chances across the second half, and even in the first half to try and get an opportunity to go up by three,” said Vosburg. “Mitch got the first two in the game, and he’s been there for us all season. There’s no one you can be happy for, than him. He was a warrior who got beaten up a bit, but there’s no doubt in my mind that if there was someone to come through for us, it’s him. All of a sudden, they fought back to tie the game. But give our guys credit, they fought back and held on while we tried to turn the tide again. That allowed us to get the look we wanted from Layton in overtime to end it, and get us back to the Finals.”
Although the Porters were able to find their pair of rapid strikes, Layton Sanasith would deliver at an even faster rate. That goal by the Fillmore junior captain would propel them back to the Finals, coming with just two minutes off the clock as Ward worked his way around the Porters defense to deliver a picture-perfect cross to the wheelhouse of Sanasith.
With the Greenport keeper down, Sanasith picked his open spot in the net and fired it home to put a bow on the team’s return trip for a second straight year.
The three goals scored by the Eagles were totaled off 14 shots, as they outshot the Porters by a 14-8 count, with Luke Colombo garnering the big win in between the posts with his six saves.
For their 23rd and final game of the 2022 campaign, Fillmore will go for it all right back at Faller Field beginning at 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning, as they get set to square off with their State archrival in Section VII’s Chazy, who defeated Section IV’s Southern Cayuga in penalty kicks earlier in the morning, after a scoreless shutout = their 17th straight in regulation, to claim their spot.
But given the history in years past, including last year’s penalty kick thriller in the Semifinal round, Vosburg knows what to expect in the Finals.
“They’re a perennial powerhouse, and we have a ton of history throughout the years with Chazy,” he said. “They’ve been here many times before, and so have we. We’re going to give it everything we got against a great program that is well-coached like they are. If we can go out and show the same kind of heart and grit, and courage that we did today in this Semifinal, great things are going to happen.”