By Len Senecal, Contributing Writer
It was a tale of two halves for the Fulton boys soccer team on Friday as the Raiders overcame a less than spectacular first session to spank Chittenango 2-0 in the opening round of the Class A playoffs. Trevor Bellinger netted two goals in a 12:58 span of the second half and Trevor Trovato notched a four save shutout as the Raiders ended a one year playoff sabbatical with an impressive victory on home soil.
Fulton opened the game tentatively against a Chittenango side that had beaten them once and earned a draw in their other meeting, generating several chances but never quite finding the mark against the hard-charging Bears. Trovato registered the best save of the half on a direct kick from just outside the 18-yard box as both teams battled to cope with slippery playing conditions and swirling winds at FultonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Turtleback Field.
But it was a different Raider side that opened the second half with a tough shot on Chittenango goaltender Greg Lang in the first 20 seconds, and the message had been sent that Fulton was not to be denied this time around. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIn the second half we played like men,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Raider boss Dave Wilson commented. Still there was a sense of nervousness when Fulton dominated the play and piled up the chances but could not pull the trigger against the acrobatic Lang (10 saves) and a defense that packed the middle, hoping for a counter-attack.
Raider persistence was finally rewarded when sophomore Tyler Crandall outmaneuvered Lang on the far side of the box and sent the ball through to Trevor Bellinger, who pulled the trigger in the 17th minute of the second half. Chittenango responded with its best threat of the game by firing a shot off the woodwork and sending another cross through the crease, but when Bellinger took a pass from sophomore Mark Henning and battled past several Bear defenders to score in the 28th minute, it was on to the second round and Jamesville-Dewitt for Fulton.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe always get chances and weÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re not finishing,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Wilson said of a season long trend that had cost his team in each of their first two games against Chittenango. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œBut today we finished twice, and we didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t the last two times.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â He also noted that he and co-Coach Paul DeRitter had, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œput a burr under BellingerÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s saddle,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â and it had paid off. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHe worked hard today,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â the coach noted, while also praising the defensive efforts of Crandall, Kyle Brayton and Henning.
The game turned ugly in the final 20 minutes as ChittenangoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s goaltender was given a straight red card for unsportsmanlike conduct and another Bear was sent to the sideline after collecting his second yellow card. Putting on a display at times more akin to a rugby match, several other Chittenango players received warnings from the officials for their conduct. Fulton avoided being pulled into this trap, however, and as Coach Wilson joked, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œif our guys had retaliated they would have had to deal with Coach DeRitter.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â He was quick to credit his co-coach for the teamÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s remarkable turnaround from 5-13 last year to second seed in the Class A tournament this time around.
The Raiders will be hoping to continue their tour of playoff revenge when they face a J-D team that beat them 2-1 in their most recent meeting early next week at a location to be determined.