No. 5 C-R’s magic carpet ride capped off with 1st Class C2 title in school history, as Lewis, Childs work 2nd half wizardry to stun No. 2 Geneseo; Rebels to face Byron-Bergen next in states
Photos and story by CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
AVON — Rebels head coach Rob Wight knows a thing or two about the Geneseo Blue Devils in years past.
He himself was on those Cuba-Rushford soccer teams back in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, when the Blue Devils knocked out the Rebels each time to advance into the Finals. Those pair of Semifinal appearances would be the only ones that program would ever muster in recent memory.
That was until the soccer gods were on their side this past Wednesday in Wellsville, when Jake Elliott’s heroic game-winning marker in overtime against their longtime archrival, Bolivar-Richburg, finally saw them eclipse and hurdle over the Semifinal hump and towards a long-awaited Section V Finals berth for the first time ever.
While the Rebels occupied the upper tier of the Class C2 playoffs, down below them, Geneseo was weaving their way through the field themselves, garnering big wins over Caledonia-Mumford and Kendall to meet the Rebels for the grand prize on Saturday in Avon — a matchup that the first-year coach has had his sights set on for the longest time.
While looking forward to their Finals matchup with the Blue Devils, Wight promised after Wednesday’s win over the Wolverines that his team was going to be a tough out.
Turns out, he was indeed right.
When the time for battle came against No. 2 Geneseo, the No. 5 Rebels made sure they came prepared, as they adhered right alongside them all night long. Matching their intensity, working the ball across the midfield, you name it.
And although some of those efforts couldn’t quite translate onto the scoreboard, they still would make the most out of every opportunity they received against a premier club like the Blue Devils.
When it was all said and done, the Blue Devils outshot the Rebels by a 3-to-1 margin, holding them to just four shots on their cage the entire game. Fortunately enough for Cuba-Rushford, of those shots, half of them were humongous second half markers.
Just what the doctor ordered. Prescribed by the aid of Tanner Lewis and Robert Childs.
You want to talk about making the most of what you’re given? Cuba-Rushford did exactly that against a fast and ferocious Geneseo defense that simply wouldn’t allow the Rebels to formulate many opportunities, as both teams exchanged glances on the scoreboard one after another until there was no more to give.
As a direct result, Cuba-Rushford would become responsible for recording the game’s first and last markers in the second half, both scored by Lewis and both assisted by Childs, as the two offensive playmakers helped the Rebels survive one of their fiercest challenges of the season from the Blue Devils to become Section V, Class C2 Champions — a first in school history, as they edged their way towards the glory that awaited them at the final horn with a 2-1 victory.
“When we made the logo back in June, when we first heard that Hinsdale was coming over to play with us, the motto was “Two programs, one goal”. Cuba-Rushford and Hinsdale, and it doesn’t matter who you represent, everyone has the same goal of being here in this very moment,” Wight said. “I can’t thank my coaching staff, the players, everyone has bought in. We kept saying that we can do it, and although we didn’t start the way we wanted to, it’s all about how you finish. The kids really took care of business with nothing but hard work and dedication. They earned this.”
The Rebels (12-7-1) were tested bright and early, as they were tasked with matching Geneseo’s vehemence right out of the gate. The team would eye every ball, and match speeds with every Blue Devil on the field to keep the midfield battle tightened up. Some momentum was built in the process of it, as Cuba-Rushford gathered some good looks on the Geneseo net, with their best opportunity arising on a direct kick at the top of their box.
The kick was sent straight in on goal, where it met a slight redirection that nearly caught Geneseo goalkeeper Dominic Agosto off guard. But a save was made on the attempt with under 10 minutes remaining in the first half — one of two shots that the Rebels would have during that frame.
But despite it, Cuba-Rushford held their end of the bargain and kept Geneseo off the board themselves to keep the playing ground level going into the break. During the brief 10-minute recess, Wight delivered a message to his team on how to approach the second half.
The message was loud and clear: Be patient.
“I said it at Keshequa during halftime over there, and I told them again tonight,” Wight said. “We didn’t play in the first half, we survived. We weren’t going to survive the rest of the tournament, we’re here to play the game of soccer. It’s going to take some time to figure out Geneseo and what exactly we had to do to get our chances. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how many chances you can create when you have a kid like Tanner Lewis up in the front working his butt off, and Robert (Childs) creating things himself. Sometimes you have to weather the storm and let the game come to you.”
And so they remained patient when the second half took full effect, as they continued to battle that tough fight with the Blue Devils once more until they could finally manage to provide a puncturing marker. On their third shot of the game, Tanner Lewis delivered with a monster heads-up play to give the Rebels their first lead.
After an initial shot against the Blue Devils, it would create a big rebound directly in front of their cage — one that Lewis was able to sniff out and bury back home after a big rush up the field by Childs saw him plaster the initial shot to set up the go-ahead marker just past 10 minutes gone off the clock.
Just over six minutes later however, the Blue Devils responded with a game-tying marker of their own caliber, as Adam Niedermaier streaked a high-arcing shot straight over the crowd positioned out front of the Cuba-Rushford net and straight into the far side to create a 1-1 deadlock between both squads.
It would remain tied leading into crunch time, as Cuba-Rushford and Geneseo kept the pressure on one another by resuming their game-long midfield battle once more. With 11 minutes left to play in regulation, and the midfield battle still conquering, the Rebels were able to garner perhaps their greatest capitalization to jump back ahead one more time.
It would stem off a phenomenal fight next to the near end line from Childs, racing stride for stride with his Geneseo defender for the ball. After he held onto possession, he fired a perfectly-placed pass straight up to a streaking Lewis in on the Geneseo net, strolling in as Agosto was pushing out for the challenge, to lay the lumber down on his second of the game — a goal that wound up being the difference maker at the end of the night.
“I said it repeatedly, we’re playing great soccer, we’re creating chances, we’re just not taking them and it wasn’t ending well for us,” Wight said. “But the things on the field were going great. Tonight, we did everything right. Bolivar-Richburg, we left it late, Keshequa, we took our one major chance. We are finally getting those chances again and we’re making the most of it. There are few and far in between, but when it matters most, we made them count.”
The last 10 minutes and change left in the game, it was solely on the shoulders of Cuba-Rushford’s defense to give it everything they had left in the tank to keep Geneseo off the board one last time.
The big game-ending defensive stand and the clutch goals by Lewis sent the Rebels of Cuba-Rushford into an absolute frenzy on the sidelines, as the team made their victory rush out on the field to celebrate the program’s very first championship at the game’s final horn.
Emotions, at an all-time high.
While his team made a mad dash towards the visiting cheering section in the bleachers, Wight himself went the opposite direction and made a full-length sprint across the field and to the fence next to the grandstand to find and meet two of the most special people that have supported him throughout his coaching journey in his rookie season — his wife Adreanna, and his older brother Patrick.
A special moment like no other.
“I’ll be honest, I was looking for my wife and my brother Patrick, who’s been by my side for quite some time helping coach,” an emotional Wight said. “Those are two people that have had my back. Adreanna, my wife, she’s been the most supportive person in the world all summer. We have a newborn back home and she doesn’t care where I am, what I’m doing, she knows. It’s three months out of the year to do what it takes to get here. The family, Patrick, Aaron, the coaching tree comes all the way from the top, leading right back to my dad, who has taught me a lot over the years. In big moments like this in life, it’s always important to reflect on not only where you are, but where you came from.”
The two Rebels goals came off just four shots applied against the Blue Devils, as the No. 2 seeds outshot Cuba-Rushford by a 12-4 count. In goal, Alex Baron was sensational, keeping the ball out of the net by making 11 saves to record the championship-winning victory.
Cuba-Rushford will celebrate like they’ve never celebrated before for the remainder of the weekend, but it will be right back to work once again when it all wraps up on Monday. Soon after, they will get set to begin preparations for their next stage of battle — the Class C State Qualifier, where they will now face Class C1 champion Byron-Bergen, who is as tough of an opponent as they come in Section V.
The Rebels and Bees will officially meet on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined, with the winner advancing into Friday’s Class C Far West Regional at West Seneca West.