HOUGHTON – For most people around the area, you celebrate Halloween by going out trick-or-treating, going door to door collecting candy. For Belfast coach Mark Sullivan, Halloween is one of his favorite holidays of the year.
Instead of taking his daughter out trick-or-treating on Main Street in Belfast on Tuesday, Sullivan had a game to win down the road at Houghton College. For the Bulldogs, it’s one more win and they head into the Far West Regional on Friday.
They would have to get past one of the more premier soccer teams in Class D in Mount Morris, who shut out Jasper-Troupsburg by a 2-0 count to win the Section V, Class D1 championship in Cohocton Friday. The Bulldogs shutout Bradford to win their Class D2 title, 1-0.
Something had to give in the Class D State Qualifier matchup in Houghton. It wasn’t their first go-around with one another, as they scrimmaged before the season began.
A little knowledge went a long way for the Blue Devils.
The Class D1 champions started off the first half with a bang, going full force on offense with a pair of goals before locking Belfast down on defense in the final 40 minutes of play, sealing up their trip to the Class D Far West Regional with a 2-0 win over the Bulldogs.
“They’re a good team, a good fast team,” Belfast coach Mark Sullivan said. “Mount Morris is good, and the boys left everything out there. Our goal was to win sectionals, and anything after was a plus. I wasn't disappointed with the effort, and I didn’t think they were superior to us. Two mistakes, and they capitalized.”
The Blue Devils (17-2-2) got off to a fast start, putting Belfast on edge early with their first goal coming just five minutes into the contest, as Colin Brickwood found Mike Edwards on the far side of the Bulldogs cage, as he buried the ball far side on goalkeeper Kevin McCumiskey for the early one-goal lead.
The Bulldogs (18-2) got into a jam later on in the half, as they committed a penalty inside the defensive zone that would set up a Brickwood penalty kick opportunity, one that he put away on the right side of McCumiskey to take a two-goal advantage into the break.
Belfast had plenty of chances in the first half to counter Mount Morris. Its first came almost immediately after Edwards’ goal, from Adam Enders, who switched into the midfield to shake off a pair of defenders on his way into the goal, but could not let a shot go.
Their best of the half, and quite possibly the game, came from a corner kick toward the tail end of the 40 minutes. Alex Enders delivered a cross in front to Adam Enders, who managed to sneak it by the Mount Morris goalkeeper after a bobble behind him, but the referees signaled no goal on the play, and play resumed downfield.
“I thought we outplayed them in the first half,” said Sullivan. “We outshot them, we corner kicked them. They scored, and we had a one on one with them on the first goal. But we didn’t falter. When you make a mistake on the first goal, we lost coverage on the far side, and the ball goes in. Good teams like that don’t miss the opportunity.”
Tempers would flare up in the second half, as yellow cards and warnings were issued by the referees. Through the thick and thin of it all, the Blue Devils defense kept Belfast in check all night long, limiting the Bulldogs to just two more shots in the final 40 minutes to lock up another postseason game.
“Mount Morris did a good job with their defense, they dropped back,” Sullivan said. “We came out the first 10, and if we could’ve punched one in, it would’ve been a different game. Give them credit, the Brickwood kid brought them together on defense, and solidified and kept our guys including Adam (Enders) out of there.”
The next step for Mount Morris is now the Class D State Qualifier, as they take on Section VI’s representative on Friday at Spencerport.
For the Bulldogs, their second straight season of domination in Allegany County has come to a close, as they finish with a record of 18-2, their third straight Division II league title, and their first Section V, Class D2 title since the 2009 season.
Belfast will graduate six seniors this summer in Isaah Leiseur, Ethan Blocho, Austin Gustason, Shane Preston, Dalton Hamer, and Brach Lanning.
“It was a great year. It’s a great group of guys, they fought to the end, and worked their tails off all season long,” Sullivan said of his team. “16 games in a row without losing, that’s a whole season if you look at it. I was pleased, we learned a lot. Kudos to my seniors for taking what they learned, and having the younger kids follow along. For them, this is just another building block for the rest of our kids. Once they get the taste of it, they’ll want more.”