The plan was simple enough: play the ball through the middle of the field and let the speed on the wing take over, bringing the Marion offensive attack right to Geneseo’s doorstep.
But time and chance happened.
Marion couldn’t successively penetrate the Blue Devil midfield, with defenders Jimmy Root and Jake Vattimo repeatedly sending the ball away and blunting the Black Knight advance. And when Marion could break through and mount something, shots went astray.
It was the elements and luck, Geneseo’s cleverness and Marion’s loss of composure that finished off the Black Knights Saturday night, 4-0, in the Section 5 Class C2 soccer finals.
No birds or furry mammals were within sight that night: they were all too smart. With the game-time temperature in the low 40s and dropping, a pelting rain washing over the field and the umbrellas in the stands, and a gale-of-November wind that chilled everyone … this was one miserable night to be running around in a light shirt and shorts on a slippery field.
Geneseo scored first, with 18:19 left to play in the first half, Mo Carlon getting the ball in front of the net off a throw-in and banging in a pretty shot. That’s the way the half ended, 1-0, with Geneseo holding a 7-6 margin in shots.
Marion coach Jared DeLyser figured the second half would present more opportunities for his kids, because now the Knights were running with the wind instead of against it. “We got our numbers up(field) in the second half, but they (Geneseo) were able to poke a couple of goals in on us because we were in so deep.”
Bryan Rollins made it 2-0 with 33:17 left in the game when he took the ball off a sideline throw-in, wove through traffic and punched the ball into the net.
“We haven’t been down 2-0 all year,” said DeLyser. “I think that’s when we struggled maintaining our focus.”
Proving his point was another Geneseo goal six minutes later off the foot of Elton Johnson, who scored on a breakaway where he had a pointblank opportunity. His shot was met by Marion’s diving goalkeeper Joe Gonzalez, who got both hands on the ball, but it trickled over his fingertips with just enough kinetic energy left to bibble and bobble into the net.
At that point, Marion not only lost its focus, but a secondary victim was its poise. Yellow cards were issued to Abe Boerman and Jake Aimino, with Noah Stevens earning a red and an automatic dismissal.
Geneseo added one more goal at 9:53, Johnson firing a pea at the Marion net that Gonzalez stopped, only to see the ball bounce out of his grasp and somehow dribble past him into the net.
Page 2 of 2 - DeLyser felt the through balls and his team’s speed would spell the difference, but noted that Geneseo’s Root was particularly meddlesome in those plans. “He won a lot of balls; he hurt us.”
Still, the Black Knights had a great season, finishing 15-3-1.
“With the exception of the Gananda game (a 1-0 loss), we would have been the first seed,” the coach said. “We had success in what turned out to be a pretty tough league this year. We lost quite a bit from last year’s team. I think we surprised a lot of people; we turned a lot of heads. This team (gesturing to Geneseo) has to play Williamson in the Class C finals, and they’re going to find out what a good team Williamson has … and we beat Williamson twice. Go figure.”