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Hornell Soccer: Section V Champions! How the Red Raiders downed Pal-Mac for title

Sean Curran
The Evening Tribune

GENESEO – The No. 1 Hornell Red Raiders scored two goals in the second half in order to defeat No. 3 Pal-Mac by a 2-0 final and won their first Section V Class B1 Championship in over a decade on Saturday afternoon at SUNY Geneseo.

Hornell ripped through their opponents in the three games of the 2021 playoffs, winning by an 11-1 margin in the three games that were played. And while the Red Raiders clearly got hot at the right time, the Championship result was the culmination of a season’s worth of hard work, dominating results and an incredible amount of talent development.

HHS Head Coach Jim Tobin stated that because of the makeup of this team, with its core of strong players who are also good citizens, this has been one of the most enjoyable rides through a season he’s ever had. And while winning this championship is amazing, it’s better to just have more time to spend with the group as they continue to advance.

“It’s been so much fun, and it’s been so relaxing. This is a great group of players. I made the comment to them the other day that this has been like a wonderful vacation that I’m on where I don’t want it to end. I don’t think there is a person here who wants any of this to end,” said Tobin. “They are all good kids. We always emphasize the family atmosphere here, and I really do believe in that. This group has taken that to heart, they take care of each other and they look out for one another. The parents should all be proud of their sons, because we all are.”

The first half of the contest was a very even game, as both teams worked to generate quality scoring chances. The Red Raiders were largely in control of the time of possession, but had trouble getting shots on net against a very stout Pal-Mac defense.

As a result, the first 40 minutes came and went without any scoring, keeping the game tied at 0-0 at the halftime break.

“One of the things with this group is because there is so much talent, when things aren’t going well – like in the first half – there is no panic. They just figure that, eventually, someone is going to get it done. And guys got things done today,” said Tobin. “This team has so much talent that everyone can just relax a little bit more. Things were a little hectic at halftime, but I think there was a calmness that if we keep doing what we are doing then everything was going to pan out, and it did.”

After the break, Hornell started to get a few more quality chances at the net, and they continued to apply a ton of pressure that eventually resulted in a penalty call inside of the box.

The play began with a throw in right in front of the Hornell bench, which allowed Genarro Picco to get outside and put a cross into the middle of the box. His pass went right to Shawn Rose, who put a touch on the ball toward the net and then went to follow it up, but as he moved toward the ball he was taken down by a defender, prompting a whistle and setting up a penalty kick.

Liam Khork stepped up to take the shot, and he fooled the goalkeeper with a shot to the left on the ground that cruised into the back of the net to give HHS the 1-0 lead with just under 15 minutes left to play.

Hornell continued to attack in an effort to get a game-sealing goal in the final ten minutes, and it happened late in the half thanks to some magic from Jack Emo.

A clearing attempt by Pal-Mac was stopped before the danger was averted, and Emo quickly won a battle for the ball outside of the box. Emo faked out a defender and then took two touches toward the middle of the field before firing off a hard left-footed shot at net. The ball soared through the air and was tipped by the keeper, but it ricocheted off of the crossbar and straight down on the goal line, where it was gently trickling across the field.

The ball most likely would have gone across the line on its own, but Shawn Rose took no chances as he raced forward and smashed it into the back of the net to give HHS the 2-0 lead with just over eight minutes left to play.

“There are so many guys in the midfield that can get us goals. Today, Pal-Mac put a lot of emphasis on Jack, and they did a good job. But you can only stop him for so long. Shawn Rose, Liam Khork, Wyatt Evingham, Dylan Harwood, Ian Ashworth and Jake Ponticello – all those guys on offense just find ways to get it done for us,” said Tobin

Hornell’s defense allowed no shots on net over the final eight minutes in a perfect display of just how balanced this team has become.

“Last year, we lost a lot of defenders and we thought we might struggle back there. But Genarro Picco went back there, and Wyatt Argentieri went back there, and they are as good as can be. Dane Thompson and Noah Kraatz, those guys plug up the middle with Nick Oyer. And then there is Gates Miller in the back. And while he didn’t get called upon a ton today, he’s always so sharp,” said Tobin.

With the win, Hornell improves to 15-2-1 on the season and will officially hang a Section V Class B1 Championship banner on the walls. But more importantly, they will earn one final rematch with the Class B2 Champion Haverling Rams, who have delivered Hornell’s only two losses of the season.

“I remember saying all we wish for is another chance (with Haverling), but I also remember saying, be careful what you wish for. We have the ultimate respect for them, and to me the Haverling soccer program is the best program around, bar none,” said Tobin. “We will play them hard, try to use our athleticism to stay in the game and just see if we can pull something out.”

Hornell and Haverling will hold that rematch on Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. at SUNY Geneseo.