When Fayetteville-Manlius scored with 4:02 left in the first half to expand its lead to 5-1, all it had to do was play the lockdown defense it had showcased up until that point and get to halftime, but it lost track of Max Rosa with 13.2 left and gave up the goal that turned this game around.
Instead of having all of the momentum heading into the break, F-M had most of it, which didn’t seem like a big deal, but the ounce that West Genesee was the highlight of head coach Mike Messere’s final regular season home game and ended up being the deal-breaker for F-M in this 9-8 loss.
The goal was the beginning of the 5-0, game-changing run that turned F-M’s 5-1 lead into its 6-5 deficit and essentially gave West Genesee all of the momentum heading into the most important part of the contest.
Nick Papa said that the run was just a result of the lack of focus on the F-M side and he and his teammates didn’t do what they needed to in order to seal the deal. “We were up at half,” Papa said. “I just thought we didn’t come out with a lot of energy in the third quarter.”
But the sluggish beginning to the second half wasn’t the only thing that plagued the Hornets in the third quarter.
With five minutes left in the quarter, the F-M sideline gasped after it saw senior midfielder Will Gottheld fall to the ground on a non-contact play and lay there in obvious pain. At that point, the run was already in third gear, but the sight of a teammate going down and getting helped off the field deflated the Hornets, and before anyone could comprehend what happened, the Wildcats scored two more.
Despite that, Gottheld’s team wasn’t going to helplessly watch its rival snap its six-game winning streak. Down 6-5, junior Zach Nestor evened things up for the Hornets with 2:06 left, and then, from 15 yards out, Nick Papa took on three defenders and gave the Hornets a 7-6 lead 57 seconds into the fourth.
Still, the fear of losing Gottheld, who scored two goals for the Hornets before the injury, was in the back of their minds, and it showed. The closer West Genesee got, the more pressure F-M felt, and the more the injury impacted its mentality.
The one-goal lead vanished in under 2:30, when West Genesee went on another 2-0 run that it hoped would frustrate the Hornets enough to knock them out of the game, but it wasn’t.
About a minute after F-M called a timeout to give its guys a breather, Jack Shanley manufactured a play that could have been huge in this rivalry. As he got pushed over, he shot and found the netting. That meant it was 8-8 with 4:46 left, and F-M was man-up with an opportunity to gain the control that it had early on.
Nonetheless, the Hornets couldn’t cash in during that penalty, and West Genesee scored shortly after it expired. The visitors had another chance to take advantage of the physicality of the Wildcats, but couldn’t follow through with another big goal.
When all was said and done, F-M’s head coach, Doug Madden, kept his team on the field for a few extra seconds, and told it to soak in the excitement that West Genesee and its crowd was expressing and use it as extra motivation in a possible postseason clash.
The Wildcats had two players with at least five points. Kevin Sheehan and Jack Howes celebrated their senior nights with four goals each. Sheehan also had two assists and then Howes had one as well.
Saturday, the Hornets look to get back in the win column when they host Victor. West Genesee is, now, awaiting for the playoff seeding to come out.