It’s become one of the annual signs of autumn in Port Allegany: The leaves change, the air chills, and the boys soccer team celebrates another Upper Allegheny Valley Soccer League North Division championship.
The Gators claimed at least a share of their seventh North crown in nine years with a 4-1 win over Coudersport on Oct. 9, then traveled to Brockway the next night to hand the Rovers just their third home loss in 10 years with a 1-0 clean sheet.
Howie Stuckey scored all four Gator goals against the Falcons, pushing him past Payton Caden for third place on the PAHS career leaderboard, then added the lone marker in the game at Brockway as Port improved to 11-3 overall, 6-1 in league games.
Per Reporter Argus records, Port has dominated division play since joining the loop in 2008, currently standing at 100-24-3 overall and 76-11 since beginning their string of North titles in 2011.
“Coudy, that’s obviously probably our top rivalry game. Both teams could be bad, and we’re going to be playing like it’s the district championships. When we’re good, they want to knock us off. When they’re good, we want to knock them off and ruin some sort of vibe or mojo that’s going on,” coach Aaron Clark said following the home finale.
“This was a good game. Defensively, we were solid, didn’t make too many mistakes. Offensively, we were good enough today. It would have been nice to get some more players involved and a little bit more ball movement, but we changed our formation today and it was going to be interesting to see what impact that would have on the what the attacking part of the game would be like.”
Stuckey got the Gators going early against Coudy, taking a pass from Simon Burleson, dribbling through the Falcons defense, then ricochetting a shot off the crossbar and in at the 33:55 mark of the first half. Burleson almost added to the lead a short time later, firing a shot off the post, then got his foot on a direct kick by Ricky Phillips for another scoring opportunity. Coudy keeper Roz Page made the initial save, but Stuckey was there to put home the rebound, and midway through the first half the Gators were up 2-0.
The Falcons got one back when Aristotle Smith headed in a deep throw-in with 16:21 remaining, sending the game into the break with the visitors trailing 2-1.
Stuckey struck again just four minutes into the second half, this time on a feed from Shawn McNeil, and closed out the scoring with 3:31 left in the game.
“Howie is Howie. I don’t know what to say about Howie,” Clark said, smiling. “He was patient. He oftentimes can get flustered when things aren’t going right for him, but today, he was patient. He definitely had some really nice shots saved, he could have let that get into his head, but he was calm. When he took his opportunities, obviously he took advantage of them more often than not.”
Page made eight saves for the Falcons, while Port sophomore Ty Guilds stopped 11 shots to earn the win, including a point-blank save on dangerous Coudy striker Jonathan Barroquiero with 14:00 left in the game to preserve the Gators’ two-goal lead.
“He doesn’t play like a 10th-grader,” Clark said. “In my opinion, throughout the season, he’s probably the best goalie I’ve seen on the field. There have been some goalies with probably more impressive numbers, but I think as far as fundamentals and ceiling, I wouldn’t trade Ty for anybody. And he’s getting better all the time. He’s sure-handed and definitely plays calm for a 10th-grader.”
Guilds and the Gator defense took center stage the next night in Brockway, making Stuckey’s first-half marker stand up for the 1-0 victory.
“Ty Guilds had 11 saves and had terrific defensive support from Ricky Phillips, Jordan Card, Matthew Nolte, Ben Lawton, Aleczander Kiser, and Parker Jack in the backline. Best defensive game of the season,” Clark wrote in a message on the team’s Facebook page.
With two games remaining in the regular season, only the 2016 District 9 championship team allowed fewer goals (17) than the current squad’s 23.
“It’s hard to compare them to 2016 but they are a very solid group that’s all played together for a long time,” Clark wrote via text message. “Josh Conklin was out for the Brockway game with an ankle injury and they barely missed a beat with Matt Nolte starting. Jordan, Josh, Ricky, and Ben have a great working relationship and integrated Matt without a hiccup.”
The regular-season slate concluded this week with Monday’s rescheduled game at St. Marys and a non-league visit to Bradford on Wednesday, giving the Gators a chance to get in a run on the artificial turf at Parkway Field before heading into the District 9 playoffs.