By Len Senecal, Special To OCT
FULTON – There was no happy ending at the end of Section 3’s Yellow Brick Road for the Fulton boy’s soccer team on Saturday when the Raiders finished on the sad side of the Class A championship final.
Instead Fowler enjoyed its day in Oz creator L. Frank Baum’s Chittenango with a 2-1 victory to end Fulton’s season at 14-5-1.
First half goals from Mupenzi Irakiza and Bonke Rugira, the second coming from a corner kick by Cang Tul, proved to be just enough to give the Falcons their second title in four years.
Irakiza broke the scoreless deadlock 21 minutes into the game while Rugira’s goal came as a dagger to the heart of Fulton momentum just 58 seconds after Ian Devendorf’s 35-yard free kick late in the first half had shot the Raiders into a 1-1 standoff.
It was Fulton’s first goal against the Falcons since 2010, but unfortunately for the boys in red it was the only time they could beat Fowler goaltender Mynt Lwee.
Standing behind a staunch Falcon defense that collapsed well to keep Raider opportunities at a minimum through a tense and hard hitting second half, Lwee finished with six saves and stood biggest on a stop early in the second half to deny Raider scoring leader Austin Beckwith.
Later he survived a Fulton flurry that produced a direct kick from close in and two corner kicks in quick succession with 15 minutes to play.
His biggest save, however, came with the assistance of the crossbar when Fulton bounced a shot over his head and toward the open goal with 2:20 to go, only to watch it bounce harmlessly off the woodwork and out of bounds for a Fowler goal kick.
The last Raider try slid just wide of the Falcon cage following a wild scramble 75 seconds from the final horn, and the dream had fallen just short of fruition for Coach Murray’s valiant crew.
“Our first half we came out flat and just didn’t put it together,” Murray said of an opening 40 minutes that put Fowler in a position to defend and counter-attack throughout the second half. “It took us to the second half to kind of get things going, and we still didn’t play our game.”
“We didn’t possess the way we normally do. We kind of got into their game a little bit,” he continued. “They’re a kickball team and we got into some of the same thing.”
While the Raiders carried the play and dominated possession for most of the second half, Murray said that, “we didn’t get dangerous enough really. We didn’t pull a trigger. We didn’t have a lot of shots. We just didn’t put ourselves in a good enough position to take care of business today.”
Looking back on a season that saw the Raiders amass the best win total since the 2008 team won 15 games and the school’s last title, Murray praised his charges, saying, This team has worked hard. Real hard. This was tough.”
Perhaps most difficult was the realization that an outstanding group of seniors had played their final soccer game in a Fulton uniform, a collection the coach said he wishes could come back next season. David Tallents, Austin Wilde, Garet Roik, Jake LeVea, Josh Hudson, Ian Devendorf, Kyle Ware, Austin Beckwith and Carson Vono all concluded stellar careers in a never say die effort for the Raiders.
Len Senecal is an English and journalism teacher at G. Ray Bodley High School. He is the Fultonian Yearbook and Journalism Club advisor. His students create the RaiderNet Daily news, which appears in Oswego County Toady.com during the school year.