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NTL BOYS SOCCER: HUGHEY'S 5 GOALS, TEAM EFFORT CARRY SAYRE PAST NP-LIBERTY IN OT (2020-10-10)

BY TIM TAYLOR
Valley Sports Report
SAYRE — Mason Hughey provided the offensive highlights, goalkeeper Cole Gelbutis was impressive at the defensive end of the pitch and an understaffed Sayre squad put together a solid team effort to defeat North Penn-Liberty with a 5-4 Northern Tier League overtime victory here Saturday morning.

"This is not an individual effort. It was a whole team effort today," Sayre coach Greg Hughey said, recalling that this was the team he saw in a 2-0 loss to rival Athens in mid-September.

"This is the team that I saw play against Athens when we were down and we played them 0-0 all through the game," he said. "It was just like this game here. We played with a lot of heart and determination today.

"I can't single out anybody on this team," the coach said. "I just have never seen a team like that grit down and play like that. They were dead tired when we went out for overtime. They were fantastic, just fantastic today."

The Redskins had just 11 players for this game, not to mention the fact they played nearly an extra seven minutes in temperatures that reached 77 degrees by game's end.

"Not only were we down, we were down men. We had no subs. We had three kids missing today. Everybody that played here, it was a team effort. Determination. I can't say enough about our defense. Mason scoring five goals today. It's fantastic, just fantastic."

Amid the warmer-than-usual October temps, the Redskins didn't sweat a trio of two-goal deficits. They never panicked and never gave up as they battled back to force the extra session.

The game winner, which avenged an earlier 6-4 loss to the Mounties, came with 3:16 remaining in OT as Alex Campbell fed Mason Hughey for his fifth goal of the day. Campbell's pass off a takeaway allowed the junior sharpshooter to work the ball to the right of the goal. He then shot past a trio of Mounties defenders, and teammate Brayden Post, and into the left side of the net to secure Sayre's third victory in nine games.

The Redskins rallied from 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 deficits, scoring four of their goals in the final 30:17 of play. They fell behind by a 2-0 count following Jackson Brian's goal at 30:24 and Derek Litzelman's score at 24:01. Brian's came after he and Caiden Alexander broke free behind the Sayre defense while Litzelman's was a line drive into the right corner from just inside the 18.

The home team wasted little time responding to the second goal — just 11 seconds — with Mason Hughey notching his first tally on Sayre's ensuing possession.

Gelbutis would collect three consecutive saves, including a penalty kick with 19:10 left in the first half, but NP-L would push its lead to 3-1 when Litzelman beat one defender and the keeper fro his second goal at 9:56. Litzelman looked primed to be the one to pick up the hat trick, but was unable to connect on six second-half shots.

Meanwhile, Mason Hughey would get the hot foot. With 3:33 to go in the half he took a shot from 25 yards out. The Mounties' keeper went to the ground to scoop the shot, but it went off his forearm, trickling into the right side of the goal to make it 3-2. NP-L missed two corner kick opportunities in the final 2:05 of the half to keep it a one-score contest.

Coach Hughey applauded the effort of his son's teammates.

"He can't do it without them," he said. "He can't do it without Trevor (Campbell) feeding him the ball and Brayden being open. Brayden was open many times. We probably could have gotten him five goals today."

The Redskins missed on three scoring opportunities in the first five minutes of the second half, then NP-L made it 4-2 on Alexander's goal at 35:01.

The Mounties would maintain that advantage for more than 15 minutes until Mason Hughey notched his hat trick at 19:50, putting the ball into the left corner of the net from the right side.

Sayre finally knotted the score on a Mason Hughey penalty kick with 8:45 remaining in regulation. The PK opportunity came about after he had a direct blocked and was knocked to the ground while pursuing the rebound.

NP-L's Zach Wilcox tried to put the game away with a long shot just 10 seconds into OT, but sent the ball directly to Gelbutis. He would make to more saves in the final 7 1/2 minutes while his defense blocked a direct kick attempt with just over eight minutes to go.

Post took a shot from 30 yards out at 6:55, but the NP-L keeper came away with a save, and Connor Young's shot at 4:18 sailed high over the goal.

The Redskins missed a handful of scoring opportunities in regulation as well, some of which were very near misses. That included a Mason Hughey shot which went off the crossbar in the first half and a Post attempt which ricocheted downward off the crossbar in the second half.

"We had a lot of opportunities today as well. We missed a couple other goals, but we need everything," Greg Hughey said. "The defense stepped up. They stopped a lot of big shots too. Our defense steps up and sends it to our feeders, and then we make a run. It just so happens Mason was there to get it. It could have been any one of those guys, because they were in good position today. We can't do this alone He can't do it alone. We need everybody on this team. It was fantastic."

Highlighting the defensive effort for the Redskins was Gelbutis, who registered 18 saves.

"He didn't get frustrated today. He stayed with it. He keeps us in games," coach Hughey said about his sophomore. "The last time we played North Penn we didn't have him and we only lost by two, so when he's in goal I have all the confidence in the world in him. He can stop just about anything. When you have one-on-ones and our defense breaks down, there's not much he can do about that, but when he needs to he's there, and he gets it. He's come a long way this year from last year. He just started playing keeper for us last year, so he's done a fantastic job."

With the win, which matches last season's total, Sayre moves into the eighth position in the hunt for a District 4 playoff spot.

"Our districts is a longshot probably, but if anything were to happen and we were able to get through and get called to districts, that would mean a lot to us. Cody VanBenthuysen has been out all season. If we could make it into districts, he may have an opportunity to come back and play. I don't know, it depends on what the medical staff says, but if we could get him back and play for us, I think we'd have a great season. That would mean the world to us.

"It would mean the world to our seniors and that's really the big thing that we're playing is our seniors this year. Cody's been a four-year starter and just went out second game of the season with an unfortunate injury. He's been out all season, so for him to be able to come back, if we got a little extended time it would be fantastic.

Sayre visits Northeast Bradford Tuesday. The Panthers sit in third place in the league standings.

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IN PHOTO 1: Sayre goalkeeper Cole Gelbutis. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.

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