Northville, OESJ play to draw in battle of unbeaten boys’ soccer teams

PETER R. BARBER/THE LEADER-HERALD OESJ goalie Paetyn Logan Dillenbeck goes up to make a save between Northville’s Colin Morehouse, left, and Jacob Frank with team mate Ian Smith at right Wednesday

NORTHVILLE — With the calendar officially turning to fall Wednesday, the Western Athletic Conference battle of boys’ soccer unbeatens between Northville and OESJ had a postseason feel.

The teams came into the contest ranked in the top 10 in Class D in the latest New York State Sportswriters Association poll, with OESJ fourth and Northville eighth. They are the only two Section II teams currently ranked in Class D.

After falling behind twice, Northville got a late goal to end the first and second halves to earn a 2-2 draw with the Wolves.

“We showed a lot of character today,” Northville coach Steve Clapper said. “To come back with a late goal in each half to tie the game instead of packing it in when we fell behind says a lot about this group.”

Help us bring this news to you, check out our subscribe page at: Leader-Herald Subscribe

Both teams have rolled through their opposition so far this season.

OESJ had outscored its foes 51-2 in its first six contests, while Northville had outscored its first five opponents 28-2.

“It was a good look at a good team early in the season,” OESJ coach Mark Snell said. “When you play good teams, it exposes your weaknesses. It shows us what we need to work on and get better at.”

The Wolves came into Wednesday’s game, riding a 16-game win streak. Their last loss came in the 2019 Section II Class D championship match against Fort Ann. Since then, OESJ went 10-0 during the Fall II season last spring and was 6-0 coming into Wednesday’s contest.

Northville had lost its last nine meetings with the Wolves coming into the game, with their last win coming Oct. 11, 2014.

OESJ won both meetings with the Falcons during the Fall II season, including a 5-1 win in their last meeting in Northville that featured several cards.

Wednesday’s rematch was less contentious but still very competitive.

“We knew it would be a physical, close game,” coach Snell said. “It was pretty much what we anticipated.”

Northville came out quickly, outshooting OESJ by an 8-6 margin in the first half.

Despite controlling play for much of the half, it was the Wolves that got on the board first.

Mason Snell scored the game’s first goal on an assist from Andrew Snell to make it 1-0 with 13:43 remaining in the opening half.

It was the 21st goal of the season for Mason Snell.

Late in the half, Northville was awarded a free kick just outside of the box and Landon Ginter capitalized, sending a shot into the top left corner of the net from 20 yards out to tie the game at 1-1 just five seconds before the half.

Both Snells were blanketed by Northville defenders as Andrew Cordone, Caleb Clapper, Ethan Moore, Garrett Shepard, and J.T. Artikuski kept close tabs on them all game long.

“We knew it would be a tough challenge, especially with their defense,” Mason Snell said. “We knew it was going to be tough against them.”

Northville, which had allowed just two goals all season, used a team effort to contain the high-scoring OESJ offense.

“Our defense played well together,” coach Clapper said. “They played together in layers and they know by playing together they can do more than on their own.”

The battle continued in the second half as it appeared the game was headed to overtime at 1-1.

The game did go to extra time but not before each side scored in the final six minutes of regulation.

Andrew Snell gave OESJ a 2-1 advantage with 5:36 remaining, dribbling through the Northville defense before sending a shot just inside of the left post. It was his 15th goal of the season.

As they did in the first half, the Falcons pulled even once again behind another late goal.

This time, it was Moore, a senior defender, scoring the equalizer as he headed home a corner kick from Jacob Frank with just 20 seconds left in regulation.

“I think our seniors especially stepped up today,” coach Clapper said. “Everyone dug deep and gave everything they had.”

The end result was a draw and both teams were happy to face solid opposition.

“I love playing these kind of games,” coach Snell said. “It’s always good and it’s always fun to play competitive teams.”

Help us bring this news to you, check out our subscribe page at: Leader-Herald Subscribe

“This was a good game to prepare us for later in the season,” Andrew Snell added.

Both teams won’t be surprised see each other again in sectionals for a rematch of Wednesday’s battle.

“I think most people assume we’ll probably face them again in sectionals,” Mason Snell said. “Hopefully, the result will be different next time.”

Before a rematch can happen, both teams are focused on getting better as the season progresses.

“This definitely prepares us for the future.” coach Clapper said. “Our goal every time we step on the field is to improve.”

Northville (5-0-1 overall, 3-0-1 WAC) is scheduled to host Loudonville Christian on Saturday at 11 a.m. Coach Clapper will be looking to claim his 250th career victory.

OESJ (6-0-1 overall, 5-0-1 WAC) is slated to face Section III’s Poland on Saturday at Herkimer County Community College at 1 p.m.

“That’s going to be another good test for us,” coach Snell said.

Halftime: Tied 1-1. Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville scoring: Mason Snell 1-0, Andrew Snell 1-1. Northville scoring: Landon Ginter 1-0, Ethan Moore 1-0, Jacob Frank 0-1. Goalies: Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville, Paetyn Logan Dillenbeck, 7 saves. Northville, Dan VanNostrand, 5 saves, Landon Frasier, 1 save.

By Paul Wager