By Len Senecal
FULTON – Fulton cleared the first hurdle with ease on Wednesday night with a rain soaked 4-0 run past Malone Franklin Academy, but the road to a Class A boys’ soccer title will get considerably tougher on Saturday when the Raiders play host to Section 2 champion Queensbury.
Fresh off their own 4-0 win over Ballston Spa in the Section 2 championship game on Tuesday, the Spartans carry an impressive pedigree and some unfinished business into the 3 p.m. start at Liverpool High School with a trip to the semi-final round on the line for the winning team.
Coach Peter Crotty’s #1 state ranked side come to town with an overall 18-1 record that includes 16 straight victories including a string of eight consecutive shutouts where they outscored the opposition 37-0.
The three-time Class A kingpins are making their third straight appearance in the NYS tournament and have compiled an outstanding 56-6-1 record in the process.
The Spartans went 16-4-1 in 2016 and advanced to the regional finals before reeling off 22 wins in a row last season only to see their championship hopes derailed in a 4-0 finals loss to Vestal.
A 2-0 loss to eventual Class AA runner-up Niskayuna early in the season is the lone blemish on a slate that includes 13 shutouts from junior goaltender Ethan Willis.
Up front the Spartans have been an offensive powerhouse, outscoring the opposition 80-7 with lopsided wins of 11-0 over Scotia Glenville, 8-0 against Johnstown, 7-0 and 7-1 over Glens Falls and 7-0 against Hudson Falls.
Queensbury filled the opposing goal with regularity during their extended shutout streak that also included consecutive 5-0 wins over Schuylerville, Gloversville and Hudson Falls as part of an undefeated 13-0 run to the Foothills Council North league title.
Junior Teddy Borgos leads the Spartan onslaught with 31 goals and 10 assists including a seven-goal outburst against Scotia Glenville and 10 game winning goals.
Borgos found the back of the net in all but two games this year and registered at least a single point in 18 of the team’s 19 starts.
He is joined by senior Aidan Jordi-Donnelly, a 13 goal 14 assist contributor, along with junior Peter Crawford (6-7-13) and senior Drew Crawford (5-4-9). Senior defender Lucas McCane was named the Spartan player of the game in the Section 2 championship match-up, and anchors a defense that has limited the opposition to just 66 shots all season.
But despite Queensbury’s gaudy statistics, the #5 state ranked Red Raiders bring a solid and confident squad into Saturday’s showdown after scoring their eighth straight victory and tenth shutout of the season in their dominating performance against Malone.
Cameron Stuart notched his tenth and 11th goals of the season for the 16-4 Raiders, who have now gone 31-7-1 since the start of the 2017 campaign. Senior Connor Wilde (8-5-13) picked up a pair of assists while Collin Bennett and Mark Tallents also dented the Huskie twines in Fulton’s convincing victory.
And while they may not have a 31 goal scorer on their roster, the team’s rise to the top has come partially through scoring by committee as 14 different Raiders have put their name on the scoresheet this season.
Bennett has five goals to his credit while Brett Caruana (8-2-10) Nathan Stuart (3-4-7) and Class A championship game hero Donovan Duell (4-2-6) have also made sure that opposing teams cannot lock down on any one player.
Goaltender Conner Ware has recorded 80 saves this season, with none bigger than his penalty kick stop against Christian Brothers Academy that helped Fulton deny the oncoming Brothers en route to a 3-2 Class A championship triumph.
Saturday’s forecast currently calls for rain, and the Raiders are no strangers to inclement weather.
Last Saturday the team prevailed through miserable conditions to outlast CBA, and it wasn’t much nicer on Wednesday when they sloshed past Malone, with both games taking place on the same Liverpool High School field they will look to defend a third time this Saturday.
But beyond the weather, Fulton Coach Nate Murray is also concerned about the toll a long season has taken on his team.
“My biggest concern going into Saturday is how we feel physically,” the veteran coach said. “The season has been long and these boys have logged a lot of hours on their legs. Hopefully they are strong enough to play with some pep in their step. We also need to remain positive with each other and work together for the common goal.”
As for strategy, the coach is hoping for more of the same ingredients that have helped them take their place in the state’s final eight teams.
“If we can possess the ball, finish on the opportunities that we get and defend without mistakes we should be in good shape,” he said. “We look forward to going to battle and continuing the ride!”
Even though Queensbury has held down the state’s #1 Class A ranking throughout the season, don’t expect Fulton to be intimidated by the Spartan’s lofty standing after besting a pair of state ranked sides on their way to the Section III final.
The Raiders dumped previously ranked Fowler twice in short succession to hand the Falcons their only two losses of the season and then took down #3 ranked CBA to claim the Class A crown.
For their efforts Fulton made a quantum leap on the New York State Sportswriters Association’s weekly poll, surging up the ladder to currently hold down the #5 spot in the latest NYSSA rankings.
But the only ranking that will really matter will come later this month, and a win on Saturday would go a long way toward helping the team continue their surge toward the coveted top spot.
A win would carry the Raiders into the state final four for only the second time in school history.
And with that in mind, Coach Murray and his men have their sights set on a 12:30 p.m. date at Middletown’s Twin Towers on November 10, as they look to join Fulton’s 2005 state championship team at the top of the New York State Class A hill.