FORT PLAIN - When the Mayfield and Fort Plain boys soccer teams met in Western Athletic Conference play earlier this season, the Panthers came away with a 5-0 victory.
The teams met for a second time Friday afternoon at the Fort Plain Sports Complex in the opening round of the Section II Class C tournament.
Both defenses were on their games as few opportunities were produced in a game that was played between the 18-yard boxes.
Fort Plain’s Zach Sweet (4) knocks the ball away from Mayfield’s Dylan Toscano (8) as they battle for possession in a corner during Friday’s Class C quarterfinal game in Fort Plain. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
When the Hilltoppers did get an opportunity late in the opening half, they capitalized on it.
Following a scramble in front of the goal after a Mayfield corner kick, Aiden VanLoan fired a line drive shot through a pack of defenders for what would be the game winner as No. 8 Fort Plain defeated No. 9 Mayfield 1-0 to advance to the quarterfinal round.
"I told the guys at this time of year it is a game of moments," Fort Plain coach Casey Russom said. "If you win the most moments you are going to win the game. We won that one moment and the game. We got 80 minutes of soccer out of them today. I couldn't be prouder of the team today. They were very motivated."
The Hilltoppers will face top-seeded Lake George at 3 p.m. today at Lake George High School. Lake George advanced with a 4-0 win over Mechanicville on Friday.
The game was originally scheduled for Monday, but was moved to today due to expected stormy weather.
The opening half featured several attacks and counter attacks from both teams, but shots on goal came at a premium.
The Hilltoppers were awarded a corner kick that was initially turned away by the Mayfield defense. However, the cleared ball went back to Joe Ray on the wing and he lifted a centering pass in front of the goal.
Mayfield goalkeeper Lucas VanNostrand came off his mark and punched the ball away as Fort Plain's John Stever crashed the goal. A miskick by a Mayfield defender put the ball on the foot of VanLoan and he fired a 15-yard shot through a sea of legs and into the back of the net with 5:50 left in the opening half.
"We gave them three chances on that play," Mayfield coach Jon Caraco said. "For some reason, we weren't able to hit the ball squarely and if you give a team that many chances they are going to finish it."
The Panthers began moving the ball along the wings in the second half but the Hilltoppers were denying Dylan Toscano, who had 31 goals for the Panthers this year, any quality opportunities to tie the match.
"They had an excellent defensive game plan and their defense had a lot of hype this year," Caraco said. "For whatever reason, the first time we played them I kind of knew it was a fluke that we were able to score five times. All I can say is kudos to coach Russom on his game plan."
While the Hilltoppers defense was successful in slowing down the Panthers' attack, the Mayfield defense also was up to task, turning back the challenges from Marcus Failing, Stever and Ray.
The Panthers' best scoring opportunity of the second half came with six minutes remaining when Todd Briggs headed a cross from Toscano on net that Fort Plain goalkeeper Chris Hanifin snagged for the save.
Briggs also fired the Panthers' final attempt on net that Hanifin caught with Toscano closing in on the play at the final seconds of the match ticked off the clock to secure the 1-0 victory.
"Zach Sweet did a tremendous job marking Dylan," Russom said. "I think this is the only game all year that he has not either scored or assisted on a goal."
For the match, Fort Plain out shot Mayfield 7-5 and held a 5-4 edge in corner kicks.
Luke VanNostrand made six saves in net for Mayfield, while Hanifin came up with five stops.
"Our last week of the season was very tough the way the divisions were set up," Caraco said. "We finished with three very tough games and came in here a little bit banged up. Some kids got a lot more minutes than they have played all year. I have got to commend my guys for the way the stepped up and play them. We had a couple of defenders who could not play today and our starting goalkeeper [Ryan Hennessy] injured his knee so we really had three new players in the back, and I thought they held up pretty well against their attack."
Russom said the Hilltoppers will be ready for their rematch with the Warriors.
"We will get on the bus [today] and go," he said. "We played them last year up there in the snow and lost 2-0."