ALBANY — The rivalry began in 1987 when the Alexander Spartans and Jackson Ironmen first encountered each other on the pitch.
Jerry Royse was the Alexander coach back then and said he believed Jackson mentor Lee Lord may have been on that first Ironmen squad.
“My wife Cindy reminded me that they didn’t even have uniforms and were wearing football jerseys. Times certainly have changed,” Royse commented.
The thirty-two years of rivalry have some hardware attached and the trophy is appropriately named the Royse Cup, in honor of the man considered to be the father of Spartan soccer. The winner of the home match holds the cup and the Ironmen had it in their possession when they rolled into Albany on Thursday.
The fabric of the game was established early as the Spartans used speed and passing for their approach, blasting down the left side of the Ironmen defense. In the first ten minutes, Alexander charted six corner kicks after rushes by Tyler Fritchley, Todd Norris, Trey Schaller, and Elijah Robe. Fritchley barely missed wide on two attempts and had one clang off the post.
Junior defender Isaac Kuhn was very busy, sweeping side to keep his team from going down the early score. Jackson’s pattern was to play physically in the midfield and defense. Then, to counter, send deep passes to free up their freshman dynamo Conner Ball and midfielder Nolan Haislop. But the Alexander defensive quartet of T J Vogt, Isaac York, Kaden Schaller, and Ethan Nedhart shut off any threats toward their goal.
After a number of offensive thrusts and the majority of possession, the Spartans cashed in midway through the stanza. A foul about twenty five yards from the goal set Norris up with the resulting free kick. His offering was sent to the front of the goal where sophomore Parker Bolin tagged the ball into the webbing for a 1-0 Spartan lead.
The hosts kept up the pressure and control with well-designed passing and Jackson continued their plans to counter over the top of the midfield. With five minutes remaining in the initial forty, an opportunity was presented to the Ironmen. A handling infraction was called just inside the penalty area where a Spartan defender and an Ironman were tangled on the ground battling for the ball. The call gave Haislop a PK and the stocky sophomore ripped it past Conner Truax to equalize the match at ones.
But the Spartans did not cave and returned to the attack, hitting pay dirt a few ticks of the clock later. Norris pounded a shot off keeper Ty Broerman’s hands. The rebound went off to his left to a spot where freshman Kyler D’Augustino collected and then rammed the ball to the far left corner. The Spartans had regained the lead 2-1 to end the first half.
“We knew they were going to be a tough, physical team but we’re much more able to deal with that this season. We can match it and still keep our strategy intact,” Spartan headman Kirk Crow stated. “We maintained possession and kept the passing attack moving. That second goal was very important.”
Early into the second half, a third tally bought some additional insurance. Norris put together a nifty run down the left side, shook two defenders, and moved into a shooting solution deep in the Ironmen defense. He calmly stroked a shot to the far right side of Broerman’s cage and the lead grew to 3-1.
For the next ten minutes, Alexander’s passing was on display and they were winning the bulk of contested possessions. Then Austin Shields moved through the middle and sent a lead pass to Norris who was stalking the middle of the penalty area. Once he collected the pass, he sidestepped a defender and laced to ball into the strings for his second marker of the night and a secure 4-1 lead.
From this point, Crow began moving subs into the action and the action was getting more physical. In the span of three minutes, two Ironmen were issued yellow cards as was Coach Lord.
Shortly thereafter, Shields moved into an open position and rifled a tough shot towards Broerman. A quick reaction and an athletic save denied Shields an entry into the scorebook.
That attempt parried, the scoring was finished for the night and the Royse Cup was back in the town of its namesake. “We don’t like it when anyone else has their hands on this trophy; Jerry Royse was our coach and Alexander soccer is where it is because of him,” Crow said. “We had this game marked and underlined for our team since last year. I stressed that not finishing shots allowed them to catch up but we were able to get back the lead and then add to it. I have to say that we got some great energy from everyone on the pitch and the fed the whole team.”
Now 5-1, the Spartans will next take on another old rival in the Sherman Tanks of Unioto next Thursday.
Alex 2 2 4
Jackson 1 0 1
Alex Bolin (Norris) 1st 20:56 1-0
Jackson Haislop (PK) 1st 05:38 1-1
Alex D’Augustino 1st 02:20 2-1
Alex Norris 2nd 37:23 3-1
Alex Norris (Shields) 2nd 26:14 4-1