SCHENECTADY — One of the unsung players on the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake boys’ soccer team got a big reward for his season-long efforts Saturday at Schenectady’s Larry Mulvaney Field.
Known more as a guy who creates goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates, Jackson Malagisi got one himself on a second-half header as part of the Spartans’ 5-1 Suburban Council win over the Patriots.
“I saw the ball coming, and my thought was to put it in the back of the net,” said Malagisi, a junior midfielder. “I was in the right place at the right time and made good contact on it.”
Malagisi’s first goal of the season capped off a successful corner kick, gave Burnt Hills (2-3-3) a 4-1 second-half lead, and teammate Matt Mell added a goal during a scramble afterward.
Malagisi’s goal was by far the game’s most spectacular, and came from a most unlikely source.
“He’s not normally our target [on corner kicks],” Burnt Hills coach Adam Cohen said. “He put his big boy pants on and went to it.”
Malagisi has a knack for making the pass before the pass that sets up a goal.
“He does the work behind the scenes. If we kept track of secondary assists, he’d be one of our top two,” Cohen said.
Fast and skilled with the ball, Malagisi was shifted from the striker position to midfield several games ago, while Owen Muller went from midfield to the forward line.
Muller was denied by Schenectady goalkeeper Bilal Shohatee in close early in the game, and later, just before the 20-minute break, he put his team on the board.
“I am not super physical up top,” Malagisi said of his switch in position. “It’s what the team needs, not what I want. I’m okay with it. I try to create offense and I’ve got to be a defensive player, too.”
“It was not a punishment,” Cohen said of Malagisi’s move. “He gives us a little more energy there. I love his work rate.”
Owen Hughes set up Malagisi’s goal with an arching, right-to-left drive on the corner kick. In one motion, Malagisi jumped high and headed the ball home.
“It was like an adrenaline rush,” said Malagisi, who scored two goals last season while on the junior varsity squad. “So awesome.”
“That was a quality goal. Upper 90,” Schenectady coach Andrew Rojas said, before adding. “That’s what makes the Suburban Council different from other leagues, the set pieces. They are a huge factor in our league.”
Tofik Garba pulled Schenectady into a 1-1 tie just after the first-half break before Stephen Zarub answered with two goals for Burnt Hills, both assisted by Park Scott.
“We learned some lessons,” Rojas said. “We’ll hit the training pitch Monday.”
Shohatee made 12 saves, several of them sprawling or diving, including a kick stop on a close-range bid before Malagisi’s tally.
“He played fantastic,” Cohen said of the junior netminder. “I went up to him after and told him that.”
Shohatee has been a bright spot for the Patriots (1-7-0) this season, and Rojas believes the junior will find a place to play beyond high school.
“He was lights out today,” Rojas said. “He works hard and he is a student of the game. He’s slowly taking command on the field and becoming more vocal.”
Halftime score: Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake led 3-1. Burnt Hills-Burnt Hills scoring: Muller 1-0, Garis 0-1, Zarub 2-0, Scott 0-2, Malagisi 1-0, Hughes 0-1, Mell 1-0. Schenectady scoring: Garba 1-0, Edwards 0-1. Goalkeepers: Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Clute, 1 save. Schenectady, Shohatee, 12 saves.