Van Buren's footwear should have been a word of warning.
Some of Black Knights' traffic cone orange shoes proved to be hazardous to Old Fort's tournament health as Van Buren ousted the Stockaders from the Division III sectional final on National Machinery Field at Frost-Kalnow Stadium with a 5-1 victory.
"Coming here is always fun," Van Buren coach Tom Swaisgood said. "It's a nice field, anyhow. I was kind of surprised that Old Fort decided to play us. We were the first seed and they were third. We played them real early in the season, so it makes sense. And they were playing better as the season went on. I kind of hoped we could come on stronger this time than we did last time."
The last time around, the Black Knights won 4-1, so they did achieve Swaisgood's goal.
One of the bright footwear wearers was JJ Mowrey, who tickled the twine twice in second half to stretch the 2-1 halftime lead to 4-1 by the midway point of the second half.
"I thought we played really well," Mowrey said. "In the beginning, we were kind of slow off the ball. But after we started getting pumped up ... we started get some fast passes. In the second half, we decided we were going all out. We're not going to leave anything on this field. Either win or lose, we're going to win or lose as a team."
The Van Buren coach said Mowrey doesn't play like a freshman.
"He moves very well without the ball and that's one of the things we got after them about at halftime," Swaisgood said. "We were doing too much waiting on the ball to come to us. We made some nice long passes to try to pull their defense one way and dump it to the opposite side, just to spread them a little bit more."
Swaisgood said the team was able to take advantage of some things in the second half.
"They were very aggressive and they were beating us to the ball a lot," Swaisgood said. "We changed our game plan a little bit to take advantage of some things and our guys stepped up a little bit more. A few of our seniors decided they were going to play a little bit harder."
The change in the second helped change the complexion of the game from the first half where Van Buren edged Old Fort in shooting, 10-7.
"I thought we played well for about 60 minutes," Old Fort coach Tom Ackerman said. "We had our opportunities down there, one after another. ... All in all, I thought we played well for the majority of the first half and the first part of the second half. But after you get down a few, it (snowballs)."
Old Fort (5-11-1) got on the board first with a header from Cole Davidson off the corner kick of Marc Salas at the 33:48 mark of the first half.
About 10 minutes later, Daniel Roberts put the Black Knights (6-9-2) on the board with a goal off a penalty kick due to a hand ball in the box.
Davidson came close to putting Old Fort in front again with a header but defender Brice Daniel streaked in to boot the ball away before it cross the line.
But it was Van Buren that pulled ahead for good not long after that. Alex Dewey scored unassisted at the 8:38 mark to put the Black Knights up 2-1.
Two and a half minutes later, Chandler Adams scored what appeared to be a goal with 5:59 when he banged a shot off the top cross bar that appeared to come down behind the line, but the spin on the ball kicked the ball back out into the field.
"This is the first game all year that we've been healthy," Ackerman said. "It showed initially. We just couldn't hold on. If we had been up 2-0, I think it would have been totally different."
Goals by Mowrey at the 29:42 and 21:53 marks in the second half set the tone and Preston Wise finished it off with a goal at the 20:47 mark.
"That's the first time we've ever played there where we got them to play our style: long ball," Ackerman said. "That's what we're good at. We don't have enough possession guys to hold the ball long so we turn and go as fast as we can. ... They were kind of playing long and it played into our hands in the first half."
Van Buren's Nathan Maynard had five saves in net as the Stockaders had 10 shots on goal.
"For some reason, we shot the ball right at the goal every time," Ackerman said. "All year, it's been the same. Point blank shots and they're right at him. Their goalie is good but the saves weren't spectacular. We kept putting them there and he was standing there waiting for them. We made it easy on them."
Old Fort's Matt Hill had two saves on Van Buren's 16 shots.
The Black Knights move on to the district semifinal Wednesday back at Frost-Kalnow Stadium, where they'll play Riverdale, which blanked Calvert, 5-0, in the opener.