With snow on the ground for many of us, and single digit temperatures this morning, mid-August, and the start of the fall season for high school athletics seems a long time ago. Teams throughout the state kicked off their respective seasons in the late summer heat, eager to start what they hoped would be a memorable year where goals were met and expectations exceeded.
Now with league and sectional championships long since decided, the fall season for most schools is a wrap, with only the very best in the state left to play in the chill of November.
Two of the state’s elite squads call Stillwater home, as the Warriors football team and girls soccer team have put together remarkable fall campaigns and are in the midst of a extended post season run.
The Lady Warriors, under head coach Christine Ihnatolya, have compiled a 20-0-2 mark heading into the girls soccer Final Four Weekend in Cortland on Friday, where they’ll look to defend their Class C state title from a year ago.
Ian Godfrey’s Stillwater football squad sports a perfect 10-0 record and will play in a Class C state quarterfinal this weekend at Mohonansen High.
While the two groups, with sectional titles in their pockets, are obviously looking for more, they fully appreciate what they’ve been able to do thus far.
“We are incredibly excited about the success of our team this year”, remarked Godfrey. “Our kids have worked extremely hard all off-season to be able to compete for and win a championship for the first time in school history.”
” There have been a lot of contributing factors to the success of our season thus far”, offered Ihnatolya. “Aside from our level of talent and work ethic, our team chemistry has really helped to mold the bond of this team, and take our level of play to the next level. I’m so incredibly proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to seeing where the hard work, commitment and team camaraderie will take us as we head to the state championship tournament this weekend.”
The soccer team has been dominant throughout the year scoring 121 goals while allowing just 16 with Warriors keeper Kiersten Conroy and the Stillwater defense combining for nine shutouts. In five postseason matches Stillwater has outscored the opposition 31-3.
Senior Brooke Pickett leads the Stillwater attack with 56 goals and 11 assists, with junior Teya Staie connecting for 22 goals, and classmate Keelyn Peacock assisting on 30 goals while scoring 14 of her own.
Similarly the football squad has compiled impressive numbers scoring 376 points to their opponents 97. The Warriors defense has posted three shutouts on the year, the most recent a 21-0 decision over Cambridge-Salem in the Section II final.
Stillwater owns a pair of players who have rushed for more than 1000 yards in senior quarterback James Galarneau, (1396 yards), and senior running back Mason Seymour, (1368 yards), with the tandem combining for 39 touchdowns.
Through the air Galarneau has thrown for 676 yards and 10 scores, connecting with his favorite target senior Ryan Greene nine times, for 200 yards and four touchdowns.
Both teams post season journey will intensify this weekend, facing high quality opponents which characterizes all remaining squads at this point of the season.
“Gouverneur from Section 10 is a traditional power who is big, really fast and flat out talented”, said Godfrey. “Their quarterback and lead running back are as explosive as any players we’ve seen all year. It is vital we stick to our game plan and execute good technique, and contain as much as possible.”
The Lady Warriors will face a Marion team from Section V with just one loss on the season. “Their main offensive threat is Chloe DeLyser”, said Ihnatoyla. “She is a Division I player who has committed to play at Ohio State University and has scored more than 300 career goals for Marion.”
So what needs to be done for both squads to take the next step towards the ultimate prize?
Coach Ihnatoyla wants her team to “Keep the same mindset that we have had the entire season. It is up to our team to follow the game plan and continue to do the little things right, that have helped us achieve the success we have had so far.” She continued, “From our goalie, to the defense all the way up to our forwards, every single girl on this team plays an important role. The caliber of play we see this weekend may be the best we have seen all season and it is up to us now, to increase our level of play and give it all we’ve got.”
“We have to get as healthy as possible by Friday”, Coach Godfrey offered. “As with many small schools, our athletes go multiple ways so this week is big in getting them ready to go”. Godfrey went on to say, “Offensively we are going to have to do what we’ve done all year, run the football. Establishing the run will open up the pass for us and to win in the state play-offs you have to be multiple. Defensively, we have to limit the big play, bend but don’t break.”
Three months ago most of the state’s more than 1500 public high schools, spanning five classifications started their soccer and football seasons. This weekend in the C classification eight football teams remain in the tournament, while in girls soccer the field has been trimmed to four.
Incredibly, Warrior teams will compete in both.
Each group understands they’re in the deep end of the pool this weekend and that’s just fine with the Stillwater squads. They’ll lean on talented rosters, good team chemistry and high compete levels in looking to extend what has already been a very special fall season in the town Stillwater.