It took nearly 50 minutes for the first goal to be scored, but when it finally did, the Wallkill Panthers went one way, and the Pine Bush Bushmen went another.
Chris Banegas scored the Panthers’ first goal in what became a 3-0 non-league win on Saturday morning at Wallkill Senior High School.
“I think what really changed was that we stepped it up and got motivated in the second half,” Panthers captain Renzo Scanu said. “We just stepped it up, we played our game, and we were going to keep going from there.”
After the scoreless first half, the Panthers put the Bushmen on their heels immediately as Scanu launched a shot inside the right post that required Pine Bush goalkeeper Santiago Saavedra to make a diving save to his left.
“The second half, they came shot out of a cannon and we couldn’t match it,” Pine Bush coach Marc Gittleman said. “Our youth showed in a lot of ways.”
However, it remained even for about 10 minutes until Banegas took a deflected corner kick in the 50th minute. All he needed to do was make a light redirect to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
“I think the first goal boosted our confidence,” Scanu said. “We had a really large boost of energy, and I’m just glad we won. I’m happy for the team and for everybody.”
While the goal gave the Panthers a boost, it knocked the Bushmen off their game, and they were never able to recover.
“It was a lot of panic,” Gittleman said. “A lot of stuff that we don’t typically do with our team. That first score rattled us a little bit. It’s the first time a goal’s been scored early in a half. The first two games was a tie and a late goal that we lost. So, it’s the first time we really had to fight from behind for an extended period of time, and we just didn’t handle it.”
Scanu added a goal about 11 minutes later to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead, and Erick Vargas tacked on another with about 13 minutes remaining to put the game further out of reach.
“I think they played very well,” Wallkill coach Christopher Valencia said. “It took them a little time to time to settle down and start playing their own game, more possession-type soccer. In the second half, they really broke them down so they could execute our passing patterns and our attack.”
The Panthers are off to a strong start this season, posting a 5-0 record, and went through the first half of their Mid Hudson Athletic League Division I schedule unscathed, posting wins over FDR, Saugerties and New Paltz. They were scheduled to return to league play Monday against the Marlboro Iron Dukes.
“I think we’re just going to keep going from here, and see how things go,” Scanu said. “I just hope for the best for us.”
The Bushmen are hoping for better as they recover from the loss of 14 seniors from last year. Prior to Saturday, they battled the Minisink Valley Warriors to a tie, and they dropped their Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association Division II opener to the Washingtonville Wizards on a late goal.
“They’re young,” Gittleman said. “We’re starting four seniors. They have to learn how to play in this type of game. As much as we don’t want to be losing, we also have to think of their experience, ‘that was too much of a reaction in the wrong direction,’ I think we can take something out of that.”