WEST WINFIELD, NY– For Mount Markham head coach Charlie Engle, the 650th win was just as sweet as the first, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he talked about it afterward.
“I was a little concerned,” Engle said after the game. “I told them we might not get a chance to talk again if Hamilton scored a couple of goals, and darn it if they didn’t do that.”
As it turned out, there was no need for concern on Thursday night.
Senior Ivan Delia scored a goal and racked up another two assists as Mount Markham (13-2, 8-0 CSC-III) knocked off Hamilton, 4-2 to clinch the CSC-III title. However, for Delia and the other Mount Markham seniors who will be leaving with Engle, tonight was all about honoring the 49-year career of their head coach, who will retire at the end of the season.
“We really want to go and win sectionals for him,” Delia said. “We want to dedicate the season to him.”
It certainly showed from the opening whistle, as Mount Markham pressured Hamilton goaltender Mike Kelly for most of the night. Despite giving up the first shots to the Emerald Knights, the Mustangs continued to pour it on, pepering Litz with shots early and often.
Finally, the pressure paid off after only 13 minutes of play. Off of a corner from Delia, sophomore midfielder Jordan Baucom was able to redirect it past Kelly to give the Mustangs a quick 1-0 lead.
Mount Markham wasn’t done, however. Less than two minutes later, another cross from Delia gave sophomore forward Uber Ixlas a chance to make an opening. Seeing his chance, Delia took the pass from Ixlas and bounced another one into the Hamilton net to double the Mount Markham lead.
From there, the Mustangs took control, keeping the ball in the Emerald Knights’ end of the field for most of the first half, keeping Kelly on his feet all night. Yet again, the pressure got to the senior goaltender. Almost halfway through the first half, Kelly mishandled a long Mount Markham shot, which junior forward David Duh was able to put into the net on a sliding shot.
The closest Hamilton got to closing the gap in the first half was on a run with five minutes left to go in the first half. A long kick by the Emerald Knights was placed right in front of the Mustangs’ goalmouth, but junior goaltender Brad Litz was able to punch it away before anyone was able to make something of it. From there, Mount Markham continued to apply pressure, making a couple more runs before the first half whistle blew, and the Mustangs went into the halftime break with a comfortable 3-0 lead.
After the break, it was more of the same for the Mustangs, rocketing three shots toward Kelly in the first six minutes of the half, including a long shot from midfield that was easily smothered by Hamilton.
However, it would be the Emerald Knights who would start the second half on a high note. Off of a free kick that also resulted in a yellow card for senior Diego Kagle, senior Geordi Geier rocketed a ball from the left side of the field and past Litz to put Hamilton back in the game.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Emerald Knights (9-7, 6-2 CSC-III) sensed weakness in the Mount Markham defense and struck, peppering Litz with shots, including two shots right in front of the goalmouth. However, the Mustangs’ goaltender was more than up to the challenge, steering away those big opportunities for the Hamilton forward line.
For Hamilton head coach Brian Rose, that was something his Emerald Knights could build on. “We had some very good interplay, and it helped us a lot in the second half,” Rose said.
After that, the Mustangs went back to doing what they do best: exert pressure on the opposing goaltender. Mount Markham continued to hammer shot after shot toward Kelly’s goalmouth, keeping Kelly and the rest of the Hamilton defense on their toes, and yet again, the pressure paid off. Senior midfielder and captain Brady Wheelock took a pass from Delia and fired a bullet past Kelly to put the Mustangs up 4-1 and seemingly put the game away for good.
However, the Emerald Knights were not going to go away that easily. They flipped the script on the Mustangs late in the second half, pressuring Litz just as the Mustangs pressured Kelly for most of the game. Finally, with about a minute left in the game, Kagle was able to find the back of the net on a long Hamilton run. However, it was too little, too late, as the final whistle sounded soon after and the Knights found themselves on the wrong side of a 4-2 game.
However, Rose was proud of the way his Emerald Knights battled, despite being down five starters due to illness.
“It was a tough one for us,” Rose said. “We found ourselves in a tough situation, but they fought through it, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
For the Mustangs, it was the final regular season home game for not only the Mustangs’ seniors, but for Engle as well, who wraps up his 49th and last season with a victory and a Center State Conference Division III title. For Delia and the rest of the Mustang seniors, it was an honor to be Engle’s final graduating class.
“We had a great game tonight,” Delia said. “It’s an honor to play for Coach Engle and we wish him all the best.”
For Engle, there’s still something left to do: clinch his 14th Section III title, and the journey will start as soon as the final whistle blows on his final regular season game Saturday at Remsen. However, Engle is not worried about the Mustangs’ chances.
“I think this team is going to go quite a ways,” Engle said of his final crop of Mustangs. However, tonight does bring him one step closer to closing this chapter of his life, and Engle admitted it will be hard to say goodbye to his home for 47 years.
“It takes me a little longer to lock the door at night,” Engle said of his impending departure.
Hopefully, Engle will not lock the door one last time without celebrating the thing that has eluded him for so long: a New York State Championship in boys’ soccer.
Mount Markham Mustangs 4, Hamilton Emerald Knights 2
Mount Markham 3 1 4
Hamilton 0 2 2
MM- Jordan Baucom (Ivan Delia), 27:34
MM- Ivan Delia (Uber Ixlas), 25:40
MM- David Duh (unassisted), 20:06
H- Geordi Geier (unassisted), 31:57
MM- Brady Wheelock (Ivan Delia), 14:59
H- Diego Kagle (unassisted), 1:38
H- Diego Kagle (yellow card- dissent with referee), 31:57