Port A soccer continues stellar start

GIRLS:
Port Allegany 4, Smethport 0
Port Allegany 4, ECC 2
Port Allegany 2, Kane 0

Chalk up three more in the win column for the Port Allegany girls soccer team.
The Lady Gators (7-1, 3-0 UAVSL North) continued to explore uncharted territory last week, running their program-best winning streak to seven games with victories over Smethport, Elk County Catholic, and Kane.

On Monday, Port downed their rivals from Hubberville by the same 4-0 count as earlier in the season, with Autumn Buchsenschutz finding the net twice, freshmen Cailey Barnett and Tara Briggs also scoring. Goalkeeper Brianna Roys made four saves to pick up her second career shutout.

Wednesday’s game was a close call, with the visiting Lady Crusaders holding the edge on the scoreboard for most of the cloudy afternoon. But as the sun came out late in the second half, so did the Gator offense.

After Barnett leveled the score with a left-footed strike at 11:29, Evie Russell made her first career goal a huge one, knocking in the rebound from a corner kick with 4:44 remaining to give Port its first lead of the game. The Gator girls continued to apply pressure, adding an insurance goal at the 1:20 mark as Autumn Freer sent home a cross from Buchsenschutz.

“This was a great win. They’re in the upper echelon,” Port coach Travis Cowburn said.

Roys stopped eight shots, while Catherine Cerroni and McKayla Wilson scored and Mackenzie Cashmer made four saves for ECC.

Saturday was Senior Day at the Moose Park field, with Sydney Fitzsimmons, Lorilei Smith, and co-captains Buchsenschutz, Russell, and Kennedy Dates honored. The Gators celebrated with a 2-0 clean sheet over Kane, with Buchsenschutz notching her 15th goal of the season and junior Leah Garzel her first while Roys kept the Wolves at bay with three saves.

“Different people have been stepping up. I think that shows a lot of character for our team,” Cowburn said. “Looking for that spark, there’s not a one of them that isn’t able to give it. I think that’s what I’m most proud of, so far, anyway.”

This week’s schedule includes games at St. Marys on Wednesday and Genesee Valley (N.Y.) at 7 p.m Friday, with the rematch against Smethport (Sept. 28) the only contest on next week’s slate. Beyond that, a pair of matchups against unbeaten division co-leader Ridgway await in October.

While mentioning the Lady Elkers as the “top of the heap” in the UAVSL North, Cowburn said, “I think it’s wide open. If we can hold it together, we can make a good run. If we get Katie Ernst back full-speed, we can make some noise. We’re hoping to, anyway.”

BOYS:
Port Allegany 4, ECC 1
Port Allegany 4, Smethport 1
Port Allegany 4, St. Marys 1

The Port Allegany boys prepared for Tuesday’s showdown against Coudersport with a trio of 4-1 victories last week, downing Elk County Catholic in a physical non-league contest on Tuesday before earning UAVSL North wins against Smethport and St. Marys.

On Tuesday, Brandon McCaslin scored the only goal of the first half against ECC, with Mackenzie Elliott heading home a direct kick by Bryce Baker 12 minutes into the second session to give the Gators a 2-0 lead.

With the game turning increasingly chippy, Elliott converted the second of two Port penalty kicks at the 16:42 mark before the Crusaders tallied late to avoid the shutout.

“I don’t think either team played particularly well. It was an ugly game. Luckily we scored four goals in a bad game,” Port coach Aaron Clark said. “I was proud we kept our composure.”

Josh Mealy stopped four shots to earn the win in net, while Payton Caden notched his second goal in as many games with 0:23 left to cap off the scoring.

“Payton was great. He has flashes where he reminds me of Scotty Brookens at times,” Clark said. “He works hard out there. It’s nice to see him rewarded for his effort.”

McCaslin scored twice, Elliott and David Talkington each added a goal, and Caden had three assists in Thursday’s win over Smethport, with Mealy making three saves. On Saturday, Elliott scored his seventh goal of the season to match McCaslin for the team lead, with Caden, Adam Doan and Leo McDowell also adding goals as the Gators earned the road win against the Dutch.

Following the Coudy game, a matchup between the last two UAVSL North champions, Port heads to Eisenhower on Thursday for a non-league contest against the Knights.

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PAHS sports briefs: Sept. 15

The Port Allegany soccer teams continued their successful start last week, with each team opening UAVSL play with a win and the Gator girls adding a pair of non-conference victories.
The volleyball team began its season with a split in North Tier League action, dropping its opener to Coudersport before rebounding to sweep Austin.

GIRLS SOCCER:
Port Allegany 6, St. Marys 1
Port Allegany 3, Eisenhower 1
Port Allegany 4, Wellsboro 1

Autumn Buchsenschutz,  who scored a team-best nine goals last season, has already surpassed that total just five games into the 2016 campaign. The senior midfielder netted a hat trick in all three games to move her total to 11 and maybe could’ve had more, but chose to pass to an open teammate on several occasions.

“Autumn Buchsenschutz can do anything in any sport. It takes a special person to be as unselfish as her. The sky’s the limit for her,” said Port coach Travis Cowburn, praising Buchsenschutz and fellow co-captains Kennedy Dates, Evie Russell, and Julia Young for their leadership.

Dates (1 goal, 1 assist), Shaylee Caulkins  (1 goal, 2 assists), and Tara Briggs (goal) each found the net in Port’s home opener on Tuesday, with Caulkins also opening the scoring at Wellsboro on Saturday morning.

Junior goalkeeper Brianna Roys has stepped seamlessly into the lineup, replacing graduated four-year starter Laura Fox. She hasn’t allowed more than one goal in any game, stopping 11 shots against the Dutch, seven at Eisenhower, and 16 against Wellsboro.

“I’ve always said you have to be half-crazy to want to play goalie, and she says, ‘I fit the bill,'” Cowburn said, chuckling. “She’s coming out at all the right times, she’s doing real well. Her throws are even better than her kicks, which you don’t see very often in high school soccer. She’s making good decisions.”

Port was slated to travel to Smethport on Monday, then host Elk County Catholic on Wednesday.

Looking forward to the rest of the UAVSL slate, Cowburn said, “We knew the division would be weak with the exception of Ridgway. They’re going to be outstanding. But right now, it looks like the division is wide open. We’ll know in a couple of weeks.”

Are the Gators in that mix?

“We’re a lot better than I thought we would be after our first couple of scrimmages,” Cowburn said. “Maybe we’ll make some noise. Who knows?”

BOYS SOCCER:
Port Allegany 10, Kane 0

After two tough tourney tilts to open the season, the Gator boys used Thursday’s UAVSL contest to give their reserves significant playing time.

Brandon McCaslin led the Port offense with a hat trick, Mackenzie Elliott and Howie Stuckey each scored twice, and Payton Caden, Calvin Burleson and Tyler Lashway also found the net against the overmatched Wolves. Josh Mealy and Adam Doan combined for the one-save shutout.

Port was scheduled to host Elk County Catholic on Tuesday and Smethport on Thursday  before traveling to St. Marys for an 11 a.m. start on Saturday, leading into a much-anticipated showdown with Coudersport on Sept. 20.

VOLLEYBALL:

Coudersport,  which dethroned the Gators atop the NTL last season, looks poised to repeat. The powerful Falcons swept Port in last Tuesday’s opener, 25-14, 25-10, 25-13.

On Friday, Port returned the favor against visiting Austin, with Kierra Keck pounding out 11 kills, five aces and two blocks while Mira Terrette dealt out 24 assists in the Gators’ 25-23, 25-19, 25-18 sweep. Hannah Lathrop (nine kills) and Erin Stauffer (five kills) also contributed to the Gator offense.

Port visited Northern Potter on Tuesday before hosting league co-leader Otto-Eldred on Thursday evening.

Gator soccer nets 100th win

boys-soccer-100th

100 wins and counting for the Port Allegany boys soccer program. Front row (L-R): Matt Lawton, Josh Mealy, Simon Burleson, Javin Stiles, Seth Bowers, Jordan Card, Bladen Yeager, Robbie Arnet, Chris Baily, Brandon McCaslin, McKenzie Elliot, Eli Petruzzi, Tyler Lashway, Briar Caulkins, Payton Caden, Howie Stuckey, Aaron Clark, Aiden Clark, Justin Osani. Back Row (L-R): Benjamin Lawton, Shawn McNeil, Josh Conklin, Jordan Bell, Gavin Minich, Adam Doan, Leo McDowell, Daniel Harris, Bryce Baker, Calvin Burleson, David Talkington      (Photo provided)

Lori Chase
Sept. 8, 2016

Port Allegany opened its boys soccer season on the right foot last weekend, picking up a 1-0 win over Olean in the first round of Allegany-Limestone’s “Gator Cup” tournament before falling to the home team, 2-1, in the championship game the following night.

Not only was it the first time Port had ever beaten the Huskies, a Class B school, but it marked an even bigger milestone: The school’s 100th victory in the sport, something coaches Aaron Clark and Matt Lawton probably never even thought about when they began the program in 2006. The Gators won a single game in that inaugural campaign, but quickly established themselves as a team to reckon with in District 9, appearing in the 2013 Class A championship game during a still-running string of eight consecutive postseason berths.

“I guess it just means that we’ve had a lot of good athletes,” said Clark, who willingly endured a celebratory postgame Gatorade shower. “We’ve been lucky to get a lot of good soccer players. Some of those years were easy to coach; we’d set the starting lineup and then sit down.”

Brandon McCaslin netted the only goal of the contest against Olean on a penalty kick 20 minutes into the first half, and Josh Mealy and Adam Doan combined for 12 saves to secure the shutout despite being outshot 19-9.

“We played different tactically than what we typically try to play,” Clark explained. “Our players are used to being the team that sort of dictates the style; they’re used to playing a faster game where they control the ball. Olean is just so talented, they’re such a physical team, we focused on playing defense. We were trying to make sure every player was covering who they were supposed to. We were lucky enough that on one of our counterattacks, Brandon got tackled in the box and got a penalty kick, and he converted it.

“Honestly, the rest of the game was all about slowing it down. Olean was trying to play a faster game, trying to run up and down the field quickly. I thought the players did a really good job of frustrating Olean, doing what they could to aggravate and basically take them out of their game plan.”

Port struck first in Saturday’s Gator-versus-Gator final, with Mackenzie Elliott converting a direct kick just 1:14 into the game, but Allegany-Limestone’s Mike Wolfgang leveled the score with 14 minutes left in the first half and Dylan Talbot netted the game-winner midway through the second session to give the New York squad the win on its home turf. Conner Golley made four saves to earn the win in goal, with Mealy corralling five shots for Port.

“We had the same number of shots and more corner kicks, but it was still the same type of game where they possessed the ball more and we relied on our counterattack,” Clark said. “I don’t think we had quite enough in the tank to be able to stay with them.”

While he would’ve loved to bring the championship trophy home on the team bus, Clark was still pleased with his squad’s performance.

“I feel great about where the team is at right now,” he said. “I think I’d be hard-pressed to say that anybody we’re going to play in District 9 has the same combination of physical play, speed and skill on the ball. We’re going to play some really physical teams, but they’re not going to be as talented or as fast. We’re going to play some talented teams, but they’re not going to have the physicality. Both Olean and Allegany-Limestone had all three facets of the game.”

With Tuesday’s game at Ridgway pushed back to Oct. 3, Port opens its regular-season slate at home against Kane on Thursday before hosting ECC and Smethport next week.
Coudersport is the defending UAVSL North champion, and Clark expects them to be his team’s “biggest challenge” in the division again this year.

“I saw that they beat Bradford this weekend. Knowing what they’re bringing back, they’ve got a lot of talent on their roster, so I have to assume that we’re going to have a fight on our hands against them,” he said.

As for his postseason outlook? “Going into the league and district schedule, I think there’s really three or four teams at the top of the district. I’d like to think that we’re in that top three or four teams.”

PORT GIRLS THIRD AT BRADFORD TOURNAMENT

The Port Allegany girls soccer team came home from Bradford with a split in the Owls’ season-opening tournament over the weekend, dropping a 2-1 decision to Portville on Friday afternoon before blanking rival Smethport, 4-0, on Saturday morning. The Panthers went on to beat Bradford, 4-0, for the tourney title.

Autumn Buchsenschutz, the team’s leading scorer last season with nine goals, tallied once in each game, with Autumn Freer, Rylee Lawton, and Shaylee Caulkins adding goals against the Hubbers.

After hosting St. Marys on Tuesday, the Gators (1-1) are slated to travel to Wellsboro on Saturday for an 11 a.m. start, then play at Smethport next Monday.

PAHS season in review: soccer

The 2015 season was a challenging one for the Port Allegany High School soccer teams, with the Gator boys fighting through injuries and a difficult schedule while the girls tried to find replacements for the top two goal-scorers in the history of their program.

Despite all that, both squads managed to finish the regular season at .500, then push a higher-seeded opponent to the brink of an upset in first-round District 9 Class A playoff matches. And with several key contributors set to return, both coaches are optimistic about next year.

The Port High boys (9-10) stepped up in class for several games this season, facing New York Class B teams Olean (twice), Hornell, and Wellsville, as well as Pennsy Class AAA school Bradford in a schedule that 10th-year head coach Aaron Clark called “the most aggressive of my tenure.” That would’ve been a tall enough task without missing as many as four starters at a time due to injury/illness.

“This team, I feel, was just as talented as any of the last several we’ve had. They were just a bit snakebitten at times due to injuries,” he said, adding, “We played more top-notch opponents than we had in one season and were rarely outclassed. The problem is at A for boys soccer, you have to pile up wins to get a high seed and despite the moral victories we had, we had too many close losses that hurt our record.”

Just four seniors depart from this year’s team, but along with Daniel Bishel and Steven Bressan, that number includes four-year lettermen Garrett Talkington and Gage Caulkins.

“They were both longtime stalwarts on some extremely talented teams and they both had some big moments on the field for us,” Clark said. “Garrett has put up some impressive numbers in goal over the last few years and he set the bar high for any goalie that replaces him. Gage, despite his injury, had a pretty good year. Even though he wasn’t quite the same after he came back from his knee injury against Smethport he scored more goals this year (7) than he had the rest of his 3 years combined. I think if he doesn’t hurt his knee in the Smethport game he probably would have been in the discussion for league MVP and could have scored a lot more goals.”

Talkington leaves with a career 1.95 goals-against average and the program records for wins (37), shutouts (17), and single-season saves (160), but Clark expects junior-to-be Josh Mealy to step right into his place between the pipes.

‪”We’ll be bringing back a lot of offensive talent in MacKenzie Elliott (10 goals), Brandon McCaslin (team-best 12 and 9 assists), and Calvin Burleson in the three attacking positions in the middle along with every other regular starter,” he added.

“Our defensive group was a concern coming into the year and they probably became our strength. Every last one of our defenders will be coming back and they’ll continue to get stronger. I like our chances to make a push in the district next year.‬”

With Lady Gator 50-goal scorers Somer Buchsenschutz and Lynae Delacour departing via graduation and a young defense/midfield corps, many observers might have expected “three or four” wins, coach Travis Cowburn said.

Instead, with playmaking midfielder Autumn Buchsenschutz taking on more of a scoring role to finish with a team-high nine goals, the Gator girls doubled that total. Their final 8-9-2 record included the program’s first-ever wins at Bradford and Elk Catholic.

“I am so proud of the effort our team put forth this year,” Cowburn said, “and hoping to greatly expand on the season for next year. The experience that will be back on the team will be the key to any success we encounter.”

But to shoot for a fourth consecutive postseason berth next year, Cowburn knows he’ll need to replace several players, led by four-year starting goalkeeper Laura Fox.

“My seniors for the year were incredible. It seems like when we needed big plays, it was a senior who did it,” he said. “Kylie Bosworth and Emily Conklin were a vital interchangeable part of our team. Their versatility makes a coach’s job a lot easier. Ashley Anderson, although having ankle issues, played beautifully. Her abilities let us change out defensive personnel without losing skill. Samantha Metzger was one of our biggest surprises this year. Playing or not, she stepped up to be that leader that teams can rally around for any cause. Being a very driven coach, she and several other players such as Sydney Fitzsimmons, Brianna Roys, and others helped me keep the mood light when the pressure was mounting.

“As for Laura, she has been my rock for four years. She has grown as a player and more importantly she has matured into a fantastic person. Much of our success has depended on her for a long time and I am saddened to not have her next year.”

The cupboard isn’t bare, though, with Buchsenschutz back for her senior year and younger players like Leah Garzel (5 goals) and Autumn Freer (3) already showing a knack for finding the back of the net.

“‪We are a team who all seem to match each other and are very well rounded,” Cowburn said. “With an indoor intramural camp starting and several players joining into the Southern Tier Futbol Club training camp, we will have big expectations next year.‬”

Soccer: Kittilson nets 50th, both Port A teams off to winning start

Tyler Kittilson became just the second member of Port Allegany High School's 50-goal club in a game against Portville (N.Y.) on Sept. 10. (Photo: Pam Fischer)

Tyler Kittilson became just the second member of Port Allegany High School’s 50-goal club in a game against Portville (N.Y.) on Sept. 10. (Photo: Pam Fischer)

Sept. 19, 2013

The Port Allegany boys last lost an Upper Allegheny Valley Soccer League North Division game in 2011. After finishing a perfect 10-0 in the league last year on the way to a 16-4 overall record, they’re almost halfway to doing the same this season.

The Gators picked up three more wins last week, following up their 4-3 decision over Elk County Catholic by sweeping past Portville (7-3) and Smethport (6-2), then notching their first shutout of the season against St. Marys, 4-0.

Tyler Kittilson continued to fill up the opponents’ net, tallying a pair of goals in each game to push his total to 15 for the season and 55 for his career. Just shy of a year to the day after Scotty Brookens became the first Port High player to hit the 50-goal mark, Kittilson equaled the feat with his first score at Portville, and could make a run at Brookens’ career total of 80.

“It was just a matter of time for him,” coach Aaron Clark said. “It was nice to get it out of the way early, so he didn’t have to mess around with it at all. He’s on a nice pace. If he can keep up what he’s doing, he might be able to push Scotty’s school record before the season’s over. He’ll at least get close.”

Eli Knapp, MacKenzie Elliott, Logan Hutton, Dane Kio and Logan Stuckey also found the scoreboard on the trip across the state line to play the Panthers, with Garrett Talkington making three saves to pick up the win in goal.

The combination of a slick field and a hustling Smethport team kept Thursday’s game scoreless almost midway through the first half, before Hutton drilled a shot off the Hubbers’ keeper and in. A pair of freshmen opened up a 3-0 lead, with Elliott scoring off a corner kick and Calvin Burleson pinballing a delivery from Trent Miller off the crossbar and across the line, and Kittilson knocked home another corner to give Port a 4-0 margin at the half.

The Hubs weren’t done, though. A shot by Tyler Koch slithered past Talkington and just inside the post to put Smethport on the board 10 minutes into the second half, and less than two minutes later, Josh Tanner buried another goal to halve the lead.

But just when it seemed momentum was shifting to the visitors’ side, Kittilson struck again, heading the ball forward to Knapp in front of an open net to make it 5-2 and then converting a cross from Elliott for another goal of his own to account for the final margin.

“Port’s got some solid kids up front,” Smethport coach Bruce Nelson said. “Kittilson’s been playing for a long time. He’s good. I thought we should’ve controlled the midfield a lot better than we did, and we just didn’t do that. So that gives them the opportunities up front, and unfortunately they score off them.”

The shutout against the Dutch on Saturday morning was the team’s first since back-to-back games against Coudersport and Kane last season, with Kio and Knapp adding goals and Talkington needing just four saves to record his first career clean sheet.

It will be another busy schedule for Port (6-1, 4-0 UAVSL) this week, traveling to Coudersport on Tuesday and Kane on Thursday, then picking up a non-league home game against the Falcons on Saturday morning.

***

Sometimes progress shows up in the win-loss record, sometimes not.

The Port Allegany girls soccer team had one of each of those results in their last two games, dealing Kane a 3-2 loss last Wednesday to match their number of victories from the entire 2012 campaign, then playing a tough Ridgway team to a standstill before dropping a 1-0 decision to a Lady Elkers squad that dominated them in both meetings last season, winning by six goals in one game and via 4-0 shutout in the other.

Monica Crawford, Somer Buchsenschutz, and Lynae Delacour each scored and Laura Fox stopped six shots against the Lady Wolves, the third consecutive win for the Lady Gators.

In an email to the Reporter Argus following Monday afternoon’s game against Ridgway, coach Travis Cowburn wrote, “Defensively we were very tough. Farrah Fischer shut down their most dangerous threat and left it up to the rest of their team to score. They had very few chances to score. We had our chances but they are just so fast defensively they we were making it very difficult for our offense to move. Their fast-paced action was the difference in the game. They are physically fit and anticipate every ball kicked. They just beat us to every 50/50 ball. All in all I was very proud of our feistiness. Our touch was very poor, otherwise we would have put some numbers on the scoreboard. We will be ready for them next time.”

Now 4-3 (2-2 UAVSL North), Port hosts St. Marys on Wednesday in an attempt to split the season series with the Lady Dutch, then travels to Friendship (N.Y.) on Saturday morning.

PAHS Fall Sports: Week 1 notes

Last Friday’s dress rehearsal at Gator Field went off without a hitch, as a decent amount of observers checked out the new-and-vastly-improved bleachers while Port High scrimmaged Elk County Catholic under the lights.

“There’s a lot of curiosity and interest in things,” athletic director Dan Stavisky said.

The old wood-and-steel stands, part of the landscape for more than 40 years, had become a legitimate safety concern as the school’s maintenance department tried to keep up with replacing splintered and worn-out boards. There are no such worries with the aluminum model: With handrails on slip-resistant steps, a ramp for handicapped access, fencing around a camera deck which runs the full length of the much-larger pressbox – a far cry from when radio and television crews used to climb onto the slanted roof of the original to broadcast games, and the only access to the second-floor coaches’ boxes was via a ladder leading up through a hole in the floor – and no open spaces to the ground below, the structure should serve the school’s needs for many years to come.

On the night of the scrimmage, a sprinkler soaked a large patch of fresh green sod in the corner of the end zone near the concession stand, where Mike Kallenborn of Pine Valley Landscaping was called in to deal with a drainage problem that had bubbled up to the surface. But with that and a few other late odds and ends taken care of, Stavisky feels that everything should be in order for Port Allegany’s official introduction to “Friday Night Lights.” The Gators kick off at 7 p.m. against the Athens Wildcats, a Class AA team from District 4 which replaced Johnsonburg on the schedule.

“Definitely a different environment,” said Mike Bodamer, the coach of the two-time defending Allegheny Mountain League and District 9 champions. “Hopefully we’ll get some more people to the games. Even when we’ve had good years, Saturday afternoon is still awful tough to get people to come to games – there are a lot of things to do on the weekends. High school football is without a doubt Friday night; it’s good to bring it here finally. We’ll see how it goes. It will definitely save the end of August, early September heat games where we’re all dying of heat exhaustion. That will definitely be nice.”

“It’s good for our kids to have good support at the games. The more fans, the more excited the kids are to play,” Stavisky agreed. “It will be exciting. There will be some adjustments, but we’re ready to go.”

***

Both Gator soccer teams will also be in action this weekend, with the girls heading to the Bradford Tournament on Friday afternoon and the boys opening with a non-league home game against Coudersport at 10 a.m. Saturday morning.

The boys’ game is one of three additions to the schedule, along with a third game against Smethport on Oct. 10 and a trip to Wellsville (N.Y.) on Oct. 15, to give them the regular-season maximum of 18 games.

“I like having a full schedule. My opinion is, you don’t get better by sitting at home,” head coach Aaron Clark said. “I told Dan to give us a game against anyone in the state, or even in New York state, and we’d go and play them. I didn’t care if it was the state champs.”

***

Like the football team, both the boys soccer and volleyball squads are coming off back-to-back league championships. The Lady Gators travel to Portville next Tuesday for their season opener, before beginning their North Tier League title defense at Smethport on Thursday. Tuesday also marks the beginning of the cross country schedule, when the Gators and new coach Jeanette Burleson travel to Coudersport.

***

The Port golf teams were the first fall sport to swing into action, with the girls dropping a 39-16 match at Bradford last Tuesday. Debbie Andrus led the Gators with a 61, Hannah Buchsenschutz shot a 71, Kaylee Ernst 76, and Alysa Dickinson 78.

District 9 soccer playoff quarterfinal: Port outlasts DCC in shootout

As mist rose from the surrounding hillsides, Port Allegany goalkeeper Ben Edgell stood on his goal line in the gathering gloom, waiting for one final DuBois Catholic shooter to approach the soccer ball sitting just 12 yards away from the net.

After 80 minutes of regulation and another 30 of scoreless overtime – much of it played during a downpour that turned portions of Port’s field into a slick, treacherous expanse – Tuesday afternoon’s District 9 Class A quarterfinal was deadlocked 2-2, sending the match to penalty kicks. Moments earlier, after saving one DCC shot and watching the second sail high while his fellow team captains Sam Kysor and Scott Brookens converted their opportunities, Edgell had drilled his own attempt off his counterpart’s hands and in to give the Gators an almost insurmountable 3-0 lead. If the Cardinals didn’t score here, Port would win.

Edgell leaped at contact, then watched the ball fly over his outstretched hand, skim the crossbar … and go over, dropping harmlessly to the ground behind the net. And as his teammates raced toward him to celebrate the Gators’ first playoff victory since 2008, he sank to his knees in the wet grass.

“I guessed wrong, but it still went over,” he said. “And when I saw it go over, it was just relief, and then the realization that we had won our first district game. I can’t really describe it more than that. It was the best moment ever. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.”

Knowing that his third-seeded Gators came one unfortunate bounce away from ending their season while No. 6 DCC moved on, Port coach Aaron Clark echoed his keeper’s relief afterward.

“There were periods of that game that were awful. We just did not do well,” he said. “During the first half, defensively, we were atrocious. Even through periods of overtime and the second half, we were lucky they didn’t put more goals in. Ben made some nice saves.

“Some of our defensive weaknesses showed, but we were kind of able to overcome it. Their team came to play – I don’t know what lit a fire under their butt after the first game (a 9-3 Port win in last week’s regular-season finale at DuBois), but they had a tremendous game.”

DCC jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Tom Boyer and dominated possession for a good part of the first half, ringing two more shots off the left post before Tyler Kittilson lasered a direct kick into the top corner of the net from 25 yards out to level the score just 1:19 before halftime.

Kittilson struck again at 36:23 on a cross from Brookens, who sped past the Cardinals’ defense to nab a misplayed ball to the right of DuBois keeper Zach Marshall, to give the Gators a 2-1 lead. But with just 5:57 remaining, Boyer netted his second score to send the match to overtime, with both teams barely missing chances to end the game with a “golden goal” in overtime.

Marshall finished with eight saves while Edgell recorded 21, perhaps none bigger than the first DCC penalty kick in the shootout.

“That’s a big goal to protect, so you pretty much try to memorize how they were playing before and then guess a side, and you stick to that side and you go. And I just guessed right today,” he said. “It was really great saving that first one, but I knew personally if I got excited I’d get out of it. So I had to just blow that off and reset. But looking back at that, that was the best save I think I’ve ever made. It just felt really, really great.”

As did his coach.

“I started feeling a little better at that point,” Clark said. “A one-goal lead in a penalty shootout is huge. It’s hard to overcome that one-goal lead so long as you have your scorers put the ball in the side of the net. This is something that’s really built for the shooters, and building that one-goal lead right at the beginning of the shootout … They put themselves in a hole, and you could see their kickers were pressing. They were trying to kill the ball, get all three goals on one shot.”

So while the Cardinals end their season at 10-8-1, the 16-3 Gators wait to find out who they’ll play in next week’s D-9 semifinals. And after achieving both of Clark’s preseason goals (winning the division title and a playoff game), it’s time to set a new one:

“Go to the district finals. That would be a really nice outcome to the season,” he said. “Win or lose, going to the district finals would be a great end to the season. Chances are we’re going to play a really good team next whether it be Karns City or Coudersport, but it’s nice to be able to get to the point in playoffs where we’re going to go to a neutral site. We’ve never played in the playoffs on a neutral field, so it would be another new experience, something we haven’t done.”

District IX Class A bracket, updated through Oct. 25