SANBORN — Niagara Wheatfield boys soccer team got to unveil its new turf field in style.
The Falcons opened the 2020 season in its new sports complex, as they knocked off Niagara Falls 3-1 on Saturday. NW (1-0, 1-0 NFL) welcomed its first bit of high school sports fans since the lockdown to close the 2019-20 school year, getting the season off on the right foot as it looks to defend the Section VI Class A title.
The first half belonged to the Falcons, taking a 2-0 lead into the break after Zack Clemen’s entry pass on a free kick at the 18:54 mark and Vinnie DiBello’s fastbreak goal with just under 10 minutes in the half. DiBello was the star of the day, scoring his second goal of the game with 11:47 left to play.
DiBello's two goals were assisted on by defenseman Max Schroeder and midfielder Nick Cook.
The Falls (0-1, 0-1 NFL) would get on the board in the second half, once senior middie Mateo Orfano blooped a shot from the right side over the head of sophomore goalie Evan Osetkowski. But in the end, the Wolverines were too far out of sorts offensively, as they were outshot by a 14-4 margin and suffered a 6-1 disadvantage on the corners.
Before the game was discussed, NW head coach John Coulter shared how great it was to be back out on the field for game day after a summer of uncertainty. Although he knows there’s things to clean up with missed opportunities throughout, Coulter knows a win like this will just add to his player’s experience moving forward.
“Possession’s the name of our game. That creates opportunities,” Coulter said. “We can get a little better at finishing those opportunities, but as long as you’re creating them it’s gonna be there.”
Although there was only roughly 50 or so parents and fans in the stands, Coulter was delighted to have the Falcons' faithful backing his squad once again.
“It’s very exciting. These parents are parents we’ve seen since seventh and eighth grade when their kids were playing modified soccer together,” Coulter said. “So it’s a tight-knit family here. It’s nice to see them up in the stands enjoying this field we get to enjoy every day.”
DiBello may have handled most of the scoring load Saturday, but he called the win an overall good team effort. He may be kicking himself over some of the shots he didn’t net, but he sees himself and the team ironing out the kinks as the season goes along.
“I think that we have a really great defense Brandon (Osetkowski) and Max (Schroeder) in the back and Jake (Romanow) in the midfield,” DiBello said. “I think we just work really well together as a team. “
After a four-year hiatus from the varsity level, Niagara Falls head coach Rob Augustino returned for his first game as a varsity head coach since 2015. Augustino was proud to see his kids continuing to fight throughout, bringing a much stronger showing to the game in the second half.
"They took Wheatfield by surprise, if you ask me," said Augustino, who served as a the varsity coach for 14 seasons prior to his move to JV in 2016. " ... I thought defensively our second half was really good. And it changed at half when they decided not to play around in the back. ... We did a much better job of being quicker getting rid of the ball."
Augustino has noticed how teams tend to push up on the Wolverines and anticipate for them to make mistakes on the defensive end. The Falls was able to take advantage of this to a degree Saturday, pushing up into the gaps created by NW players to generate a second-half tie at one a piece.
The hope for Augustino is that the Wolverines improve defensively from their 2019 pace. With scores as lopsided as 7-0 and even 11-0 last fall, Augustino has harped on defense with his kids, as he plans to sure up that side of the field during the Falls' early-season schedule before adjustments are made accordingly.
The second-half performance is something Augustino wants the team to feed off of moving forward. One player that shined in the loss was junior keeper Tyler White, finishing with 11 saves on the day. White may have given up three goals, but Augustino knows there's a strong likelihood of giving up goals when a goalie gets peppered the way his did.
White took responsibility for giving up a score on the free-kick goal, but Augustino went to bat for his goaltender on NW's two other scores.
"It's something him and I talked about and actually the team's talked about ... The second half was about three, four, maybe five, chances for us to control it and clear it," Augustino said. "Or control it and at least play it out, and all three were mishits that just kind of stayed down there, and eventually the third ball went in. ... So I thought his performance was stellar. I think that he puts himself in good position and he is the main reason why the score stayed three."
Next up for the Falls is 4:45 p.m. on Monday in a home date withKenmore West at 4:45 p.m. on Monday. The Falcons will next be in action the same time and day, traveling over to Lockport for their first away game of the season.
Follow sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos. Also, be sure to listen to the GNN Sports Podcast, on Spotify, Anchor, Apple Podcasts and more.