After sitting out for nearly a month with a hamstring injury, Lansing senior defender Jake Palladino was determined to make his last soccer game on Sobus Field a memorable one.
And with just under 12 minutes to play in the first half, he made himself one heck of a memory.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know that I scored until after I heard everyone else screaming,” Palladino said. “I just saw the ball and went after it and just tried to get a touch on it, and it went in. I’m not normally an attacker, so doing that was very new to me. Felt great.”
His goal broke a scoreless tie, and burly striker Donovan Baird added an insurance goal just over five minutes later and the Bobcats defeated visiting Trumansburg, 2-0, in the Section 4 Class C semifinals.
“We were back to full strength with having Jake back, and that helped us,” said Lansing coach Adam Heck, whose Bobcats (17-1) are the two-time defending Class C champs. “We were able to keep Jason (Yahn, senior striker) up top, and he had a great game. Jake’s being out hurt us as far as not having him, but it helped us because we became a little deeper.”
Yahn had an assist and junior keeper Bryce Stanhope made three saves for Lansing, which advances to the Class C championship game Saturday at the Wright National Soccer Campus in Oneonta. The game time hasn’t been announced.
The Bobcats will take on sixth seed Marathon, which upset second-seeded Greene, 3-2, in Wednesday’s other Class C semifinal. The Olympians (14-3) scored the game-winning goal with 19 seconds to play, then survived a disallowed Greene goal in the waning seconds.
Keeper Seamus Henehan made five saves for Trumansburg (15-3), which had few quality scoring chances in the game. Coach Jason Hodge said it was his Blue Raiders’ lack of fire in the first half that did them in.
“We didn’t show up for the first half, and that’s what lost the game for us,” he said. “We stuck around in the second half. I thought we played well enough to win the game in the second half, we just didn’t capitalize on our chances, and against a really good soccer team like Lansing, that’s what’s going to hurt you.”
Lansing had the better of the play for most of the first half, with a 14-8 edge in shots and two of them finding the back of the net.
With 11:48 to go, Palladino received a ball inside the 6-yard box, and just as Henehan was going to grab it, he pulled it away and tucked it into the net to put the home team on top. Hodge and the rest of the Blue Raiders looked for a goalie interference call, but none was forthcoming.
Then just over five minutes later, Bobcats scoring leader Yahn sprinted to save the ball from going over the end line — Hodge and keeper Seamus Henehan were sure that it had, in fact, gone out of bounds — and centered to Baird, who one-timed it home.
The Bobcats had several other chances earlier in the period. Five minutes in, Baird fed a streaking Yahn in the penalty box, but the Bobcats’ scoring leader’s shot sailed wide left. Baird shot high a few minutes later from inside the 18, and Yahn was wide again on a good shot with 16 minutes to go.
T-burg had few good chances as Lansing pushed its defense up and denied speedy senior striker Abreham Kittel — who earlier this season set Trumansburg’s single-season and career scoring records — at nearly every turn. The Bobcats put at least one player, and sometimes two, in his face as soon as he got the ball.
“Yeah, that’s nothing new,” Hodge said. “Lansing’s been playing against him for four years now. They know how to play him. It’s the teams that we don’t see that we have a chance against with him up top.”
“He’s a great player,” Palladino said of Kittel. “I played with him in club soccer, and he’s very good with the ball at his feet. We just try to make sure that someone was on him at all times.”
Trumansburg, which put some of its better athletes on defense at the end of the first half to try to keep the deficit at two, pressured the Lansing goal several times in the second half but couldn’t find the mark. Hodge was said he was happy with the season — which included a 2-1 overtime defeat of then-No. 1 Lansing on Oct. 9 — but frustrated at the same time.
“It was a great season,” he said. “Still sucks that it’s over, because I think we had more in our tank than we showed today. We just didn’t show up for a half, and Lansing did, and they got it.”
Lansing advanced to the state final four in 2011 and ’12, both times falling to Port Jefferson by 1-0 scores. The losses came in the state semis in ’11, and in the state final last year.