By ADAM SHINDER
Recorder Sports Staff
GALWAY -- Heading into Wednesday's Western Athletic Conference match against Galway, Fort Plain boys soccer coach Casey Russom wanted his team to attack early and make a statement against a Golden Eagles team that was entering the game unbeaten in eight games.
It took less than four minutes for everything to come to fruition. Evan Grassel's cross from the right wing found Fort Plain forward Marcus Failing in the box, and after a brief scramble, the ball ended up at the feet of Fort Plain's Will Logan, who smashed a shot past Galway goalkeeper Evan Ceroalo.
The Hilltoppers repeated the feat with another goal early in the second half, and a Fort Plain defense led by outstanding keeper Chris Hanifin turned back all of Galway's pressure to post a 2-0 victory.
"To score first, especially for us -- because we're pretty good defensively -- is huge," Russom said. "We wanted to come out and attack them. Attack them for 80 minutes. I don't know if we did that -- the last 20 minutes or so, they pounded on us pretty good."
By that time, however, the Hilltoppers (7-2-2) already had a two-goal cushion, as six minutes into the second half, Logan's looping cross from the right side of the box bounced to midfielder Joe Ray, who poked the loose ball past Ceroalo.
"It seems like once you get going off one goal, they keep coming," Logan said.
Galway (8-1-0) took control of the game after Fort Plain's early surge, but couldn't find a way past Hanifin, who came up with a pair of massive saves near the midway point of the first half to keep the Hilltoppers in front.
In the 14th minute, Hanifin dealt comfortably with a blast from Galway's Ryan Pappalau, then six minutes later, the Fort Plain senior dove to his left to deny Zachary Hartman from close range.
"First half, he made a couple of real big saves," Russom said. "Second half, I don't think there was anything that dangerous, but that's what he does. He's gonna make big saves when we need him to."
After falling behind 2-0 on Ray's 46th-minute finish, Galway pressed forward, but couldn't find a way past a Fort Plain defense marshaled by the likes of Chris Kilmartin, Zach Sweet and Trenton Douglas. Galway forward Josh Bailey, who entered Wednesday with 11 goals in the Golden Eagles' first eight games, was usually surrounded by two, three and sometimes four defenders when he found himself with the ball and couldn't produce any clear chances.
It was that way with for the rest of the Golden Eagles who, although they controlled the run of play, were forced to settle for long distance shots that ended up off target -- the closest being a blast from Casey Mello that sizzled just a few inches above the crossbar.
"I thought we had the better part of play for a good portion of the game," said Galway head coach Rob Martin. "But, we didn't capitalize on our chances. Nothing against Fort Plain -- they had two chances and they scored on both of them."
The Hilltoppers struck when the iron was hot, and after a 1-1-2 stretch over their four games coming into Wednesday, Russom said that a statement win against a team that had reached No. 13 in the New York State Sportswriters Association's latest statewide Class C poll was just what his club needed.
"We had some ties that we kind of gave away, so this one was important," Russom said. "This is a big win for us."