Port Allegany Reporter Argus
September 4, 2008
As the Port Allegany boys’ varsity soccer program enters its third year, momentum continues to build. Over the weekend, the team opened the season with a 1-1 record at the Galeton Tournament, including a 3-0 win over their hosts in an opening-round match.
The Gators, who tied Galeton 1-1 last year but lost the match on penalty kicks at the end of overtime, emphatically made sure that no extra session would be necessary this time.
“It was a good first game of the year,” Clark said. “It was a good way to go out, get the butterflies out, gain some confidence.”
Port concentrated on offense in the first half, with Jonathan Binder and Tyler Payne both finding the back of the Tigers’ net. “Binder was a pleasant surprise,” Clark said. “I thought he’d be providing more assists than anything this year.”
Protecting their 2-0 lead, the Gators went into a defensive shell in the second half. Clark’s gameplan was to “choke off Galeton, try to keep them from getting any balls at the goal.” The strategy worked, as Ryan Sabolcik recorded six saves to register the shutout and Binder scored his second goal.
The win sent the Gators into the tournament finals against Sullivan County, which had defeated Elkland 2-0 in its opening-round match. The Griffins – a District 4 playoff team last year – were simply too powerful for the Port side, winning the championship by a 5-0 score.
“They’re perennially a really good team,” Clark said. “This is the second time we’ve played them now, and they have our number; we can’t seem to figure them out. They’ve been playing for a long time. They’ve got a lot of skill at all their positions, and they’ve got very big players. Their school has no football team, so kids who are normally playing linebacker are playing soccer. It’s tough to go up against that kind of size.”
The Griffin defense paid special attention to Payne, marking him closely throughout the match. “The Northern Tier League teams play a much more physical game than the teams out here do,” Clark admitted.
However, he thinks the experience could benefit the team later in the season. “It’s nice to have the kids see that kind of soccer being played, because they won’t see it again for the rest of the year,” he said. “But if they’re successful and able to go far in districts, they’ll see that again at some point in the district playoffs. So it is nice for them to see that, and realize that not everyone plays like we do.”
Port’s performance in Galeton gave Clark confidence heading into Tuesday’s Upper Allegheny Valley league opener at Johnsonburg. “We realistically should be able to challenge for a win in every game this year,” he said. “I feel comfortable that we can challenge for some sort of league superiority.”