KEENE VALLEY — Despite being the bigger school, the Saranac Lake boys soccer team found out Monday afternoon how good the state-ranked Keene Beavers really are.
Playing on Keene’s home field, the Red Storm, which plays in Class B, suffered a 3-1 setback to the Beavers, dropping to 3-4 on the year.
Red Storm head coach Brad Rafferty said his team, which has eight sophomores on its roster, is still working through the growing pains.
“There were a lot of 50/50 balls missed,” he said. “We had moments where we looked really good and moments where we lost marks in the middle of the field.”
Keene — which is currently ranked seventh in the state for boys Class D soccer, according to the New York State Sports Writers Association — buried two goals in the second half to seal its fifth straight victory.
While Monday’s contest didn’t impact the state rankings — they were decided based on results prior to Sunday — the Beavers improved to 5-1 on the season. Keene’s only loss this season was against the third-ranked team in the state, the Chazy Eagles, on Sept. 9.
The Beavers entered the game having defeated its past four opponents by a combined score of 29-4. Monday’s contest was Keene’s first real test since its season opener against Chazy.
“If we have hopes of playing in sectionals and even beyond that then we have to play better competition,” Beavers head coach Brad Hurlburt said. “We’ve scheduled teams that can provide us that competition. We travel to Plattsburgh on Thursday, which will be a real challenge for the boys.”
Saranac Lake got off to a quick start when junior Dillon Wilson made a cross-field pass to sophomore Mason Stoddard, whose first shot was stopped by Keene’s goalie Peter Robjent. However, Stoddard was able to score off the rebound just 1 minute, 10 seconds into the game.
The Beavers responded a few minutes later when a Red Storm defender was penalized for a handball in front of the net, giving Vann Morrelli, a junior, a penalty kick, which he successfully converted making the score 1-1.
“We came out a bit sluggish,” Hurlburt said. “We kind of got out of the way that we like to play a little bit. Then we were able to play more precise and settle in. I think it showed with forcing the penalty kick in the first half. It was just through creating chances.”
After intermission, Keene took control of the game and finished the contest by outshooting Saranac Lake 30-12. The Beavers took the lead a little more than 10 minutes into the second half when sophomore Brayden Harmer scored off a short pass from junior Hyler Isham.
The Red Storm nearly responded, when sophomore Ethan Knight made a pass between two defenders to fellow sophomore Ryan Bartholomew, who quickly got a shot off that hit the post. But after the Beavers regained possession, they raced down the field, with Morrelli making a pass to Isham, who split the Saranac Lake defense and riffled a shot past Saranac Lake’s goalie Dustin Burke.
Rafferty said his defense had a hard time containing Isham throughout the contest.
“He had about 10 shots,” he said. “They move the ball well, they play a lot of soccer down here. They’re well-coached. You could see the movement and the transition across the field that were slow to react to. It worked for them.”
The goal was Isham’s 10th this season. He currently leads his team in that category, while Morrelli is second with seven goals.
“Hyler has kind of found his game a little bit in the system we’re playing,” Hurlburt said. “In the first couple of games, I think he was having trouble finding his place in the offensive half. The way we play and where he’s fitting in, he’s becoming a little more dangerous because he’s not just a directional striker. He’s involved in build-up then he’s involved in offensive opportunities. It presents a challenging player to defend because he’s not just doing one thing.”
While Isham created problems for the Red Storm defense, the team was also without both of their goalies on Monday. Burke, a junior, who typically plays defense, took over the goalie position.
“He did well in net, but it’s hard to replace him,” Rafferty said.
Burke finished with 16 saves and the Beavers’ Robjent had 10 stops. Despite having a solid outing in net, Rafferty said he’ll likely switch Burke back to a defender.
“He’s more valuable on the field,” he said. “I mean you could see his punts were huge. He’s also my best defender, so I think I need him on the field.”
Saranac Lake will take on Boquet Valley today at home at 4:30 p.m. Keene will travel to Plattsburgh today for its next game. That contest will start at 6:30 p.m.