FORT PLAIN - It was a case of a tenacious offense meeting a stubborn defense in the second half of Monday's Western Athletic Conference boys soccer match.
The Northville defense held up under constant pressure from the Fort Plain attack through most of the second half and a pair of overtimes, resulting in a scoreless draw after 100 minutes of play Monday at the Fort Plain Sports Complex.
"It was definitely two teams butting heads out there," Fort Plain coach Casey Russom said. "It was a good hard fought battle. You hate to see anybody lose a game like that but you also want to win a game like that."
Northville goalkeeper Tim Monette covers up as he collides with Fort Plain’s Jacob Sardina (16) and the Falcons’ Brandon Blowers looks on during the second half of Monday’s Western Athletic Conference match in Fort Plain. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Both teams put together solid bursts of offense during the opening 40 minutes but could not sustain the momentum.
Goalkeepers Chris Hanifin for Fort Plain and Tim Monette were up to the task cutting down crosses and long passes away from the goalmouth and stonewalling the shots that found their way on net.
The Falcons (1-2-1 overall, 1-2-1 WAC) had a solid opportunity thwarted by Hanifin with 10 minutes left in the opening half when Brad VanNostrand collected a loose ball and fired a hard 15-yard shot on net that Hanifin knocked down and collected.
The Hilltoppers (5-1-1 overall, 4-0-1 WAC) came close to breaking into the scoring column late in the opening half when Marcus Failing connected on a hard drive that hit square off the crossbar.
Fort Plain built on the play by continuing its surge early in the second half, but the Falcons' defense led by Matt Scunziano and Monette was ready.
"They played solid and very determined together as one unit," Northville coach Steve Clapper said. "It wasn't an individual stepping up and doing things. They have learned how to work together and are a very coachable group. From the first half to the second half we made a few adjustments and they were able to step up and realize the deficiencies where the offense was able to break through in the first half. They were able to cut that down in the second half."
Fort Plain's best scoring opportunities in the second half came off corner kicks, but Monette came through either punching away or collecting the ball in front of his net.
"He [Monette] is really a good voice back there in terms of keeping us solidified," Clapper said. "He played as a defender last year so that really helps him see and know how things should be back there for us."
The Falcons made a final offensive push late in regulation with Keather Brooker running onto a long pass out of his midfield to go one-on-one with Hanifin. The senior goalkeeper came out and won the challenge, sending the match into overtime.
"I think Chris plays a lot bigger than he is in the goal," Russom said. "He shrinks the game because he has so much range. The second half I definitely thought we had the better end of it; we just couldn't find the right finish. We had a couple corner opportunities we let get away."
Both teams created opportunities in the 10 minute golden-goal overtimes but could not connect for a game winner.
"We have some guys learning new positions," Clapper said. "It is still early in the season and we are getting them working together. We are starting to put combinations together and are starting to look for each other. The more that comes along, the more chances we are going to be able to produce. The quality chances are coming out of the give-and-goes, the overlaps and those possibilities."
Monette collected 11 saves in goal for Northville, while Hanifin was credited with 10.
"Our kids played hard. Sometimes that is all you can do," Russom said. "Give them credit, they defended very well. They put bodies on our guys and played physical in the back. I like that style of play."
Monday's match is the only one of the season between the two teams as the realignment of the division in the WAC separated the former North Division rivals. The schools play all teams in their division twice and all other teams in the league once.
Northville remains in the Northern Division with Mekeel Christian Academy, Galway and Mayfield and is third in the standings.
Fort Plain leads the Central Division, which includes St. Johnsville, Canajoharie and Sharon Springs.
The WAC South consists of Schoharie, Berne-Knox-Westerlo, Duanesburg and Middleburgh.
"It's too bad; I would like to see them again," Russom said. "It's a good battle and I like going to Northville in October."