Junior Mark Makhatadze is known for his all-around skills on the soccer pitch, but he’s also very honest. That’s why he finally had to admit that when he scored Shenendehowa’s first goal on a fortunate bounce off the post in Monday night’s Section II Class AA championship game, it was really meant to be a pass.
Makhatadze scored one goal and assisted on another as the Plainsmen won their third straight AA title with a 2-0 victory over Christian Brothers Academy. Shen completely dominated the Brothers and bottled up their offense behind defender Alec Sukols and goalie Noah Flint.
Makhatadze gave Shenendehowa the only goal it would need when his long, hooking “shot” from the far corner bounced off the post and into the goal with 7:29 remaining in the first half.
Was he looking to score from that far out? “If I said I was, I’d be lying,” he responded with a big grin. “I’ll leave it at that.”
But when pressed, he admitted that the Plainsmen’s first goal was actually a pass. “I saw Lochlain [Clarke] at the back post, and I tried to put it [the ball] there. But it went in,” Makhatadze said. “I’ll claim it, but if you saw the look on my face, you would know that I didn’t mean to do it. Let’s be honest.”
Makhatadze was also honest about how much the win meant to he and his teammates, who could only advance as far as the Suburban Council tournament championship last year because the pandemic wiped out regional and state competition.
“It gets better all the time,” he said. “This is my third time, and every time it gets better. We fought all the way through for 80 minutes, and I’m so happy to win again. I do think this win is a little bit of redemption from last year, and I’m just so happy to pull it off.”
Shen coach Jonathan Bain appreciated his star player’s ability to do whatever is needed to pull off a win.
“The level of maturity Mark has is through the roof,” Bain said. “His soccer IQ is so high. It can go unnoticed because he’s not flashy, but he controls the game and everything goes through him. He directs the traffic.”
Bain agreed with Makhatadze that winning never gets old. “Three in a row feels great,” he said. “It never gets old, and every win is great. This is such a great group of kids. They worked so hard, so to do it again is just a great achievement.”
The Plainsmen didn’t necessarily need another score the way they were playing defensively, but Clarke tacked on a feed from Makhatadze with 33:30 left in the game to basically seal the win. The defense, led by Sukols, took care of the rest.
“That was a great win. This is what we came here to do,” Sukols said. “As the game progressed, we felt like we had a goal and then they would try to throw people at us. We expected that for 80 minutes. This is a lot different than the last time we played them,” he said. “We had to do a complete overhaul. We switched up our offense and our defense. We played our own way and figured out how to utilize everyone on the field.”
The game was a rematch of the 2020 Suburban Council championship game, won by the Plainsmen 3-2.
Flint made two saves for the Plainsmen, while CBA keeper John Putnam stopped 10 of Shen’s 12 shots on goal.
The top-seeded Plainsmen improve to 14-0-4 overall, while CBA, the seventh seed and the 2018 Class AA champion, ends the season at 11-6-1.
Shenendehowa’s players feel they have some work left to do.
“We’ll forget about this win [today] and focus on the regionals and the states,” said Makhatadze. “We’re going all the way. That’s our mindset.”
“I know there’s a good team coming out of Section III [Fayetteville-Manlius], but I think we can at least get to the regionals,” added Sukols.
Shenendehowa 2, CBA 0
Halftime: Shenendehowa led 1-0. Shenendehowa scoring: Mark Makhatadze 1-1, Lochlain Clarke 1-0. Goalies: CBA, John Putnam, 10 saves; Shenendehowa, Noah Flint, 2 saves.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].