CANAJOHARIE - Right until the final whistle blew, the Canajoharie Cougars had their chances to draw even in Wednesday's Section II Class C preliminary game.
Taylor Fleig's header went high and wide as time expired on the 16th-seeded Cougars' 2-1 season-ending loss to No. 17 Mechanicville.
"I just told them they had chances and I thought they played fairly well," Canajoharie coach Blake Smith said. "I thought they need to play more as a team and not as individuals. Everybody wanted to get the ball and go. That just doesn't work during a soccer game, and that was one of the problems."
Canajoharie’s Nicholas Sitterly brings the ball down the field with teammate Zachary Bowerman as Mechanicville’s Connor Kawola (10) and Matt Kucharski (15) defend during Wednesday’s Section II Class C preliminary boys soccer game in Canajoharie. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo)
Paul Vermilyea scored both goals for the Raiders (4-11-1), one in each half. The second one broke a 1-1 tie with less than 10 minutes to go in the game, as the ball bounced around two Canajoharie defenders.
"I thought the second goal we gave up was a defensive mistake, too," Smith said. "I thought we played fairly well most of the time, but at inopportune times, we gave them opportunities."
Vermilyea collected the ball and tucked a shot inside the far goalpost, giving the Raiders a 2-1 lead.
Class AA First Round
Guilderland 1, La Salle 0
Class B First Round
Tamarac 2, Catskill 1
Ichabod Crane 4, Johnstown 0
Coxsackie-Athens 2, Cairo-Durham 0
Schuylerville 4, Corinth 0
Class C Play-In Games
Middleburgh 2, Saratoga Catholic 0
Mechanicville 2, Canajoharie 1
Class D First Round
Hartford 4, Salem 0
St. Johnsville 4, North Warren 3
Class D First Round
Keene 4, Johnsburg 1
Westport 2, Wells 1
"Paul has a nose for the ball and he happened to be in the right place at the right time, so we were fortunate today," Mechanicville coach Gary Barden said.
Over the next nine chances, the Cougars (6-11) had plenty of chances to even things up. Mere seconds later, Fleig sent in a corner kick from the right side that went out of bounds and hit the outside netting. Three minutes after that, the Mechanicville defense turned away another opportunity to score.
Aside from a few trips into the Canajoharie defensive third, the game went the way Barden didn't want.
"We told the guys that when it was 1-1 at halftime, we couldn't play the whole second half in front of our own goal," he said. "We were giving them too many opportunities, so I said try to keep it pushed up. We pulled our backs a little bit and told our goalie to play off the line. I don't know if it helped, but we got lucky."
The Cougars weren't nearly as lucky, especially in the final minute when Logan Sala's shot rolled wide of the net.
"We came back," Smith said. "We had a lot of chances, more than they did, clearly."
The Raiders got on the board in the game's fifth minute when, amid a scramble in front of the goal, Vermilyea poked the ball into the net.
"We were pretty happy," Barden said. "We've been working a lot on short passes in the midfield. Today, they did that a little bit more. They also won a lot of the 50/50 balls at midfield because Canajoharie is a physical team and we knew we'd have to come down here and match up with them because we've got a lot of small guys, but they played courageously."
Canajoharie's had a good chance to tie things up nearly three minutes later, Michael Mazzarella's shot bounced off Foard and rebounded by Christopher Parrino, but Foard caught his shot, ending the opportunity.
The Cougars drew even when Brice Buccolo took a throw-in and sent it to Karl Gustafson, who redirected it into the goal, tying the game in the 17th minute.
Seven minutes later, Sala brought the ball down the field toward the goal but as his pass went across the goalmouth, Buccolo slipped and was unable to recover the ball and it was cleared out by the defense.
The win gives the Raiders an appointment with top-seeded Lake George on Friday, while Canajoharie's season comes to an end after its second trip to sectionals in program history.
"It was a nice season," Smith said. "I had a bunch of seniors that I really like. I was glad that we were able to take part in sectionals."