Nineteen long years after it last finished on top, and two years after a near-miss in the final round, the Skaneateles boys soccer team has returned to the top of the Section III Class B ranks.
The Lakers achieved this feat Monday night at Chittenango High School, playing one of its best games of the season to upend South Jefferson 3-0 and advance to Saturday's regional final against Section IV champion Chenango Forks at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta.
The last Skaneateles team to win a sectional title in boys soccer came in 1989 -- before any of the current players were born, and occurring when current head coach Kirk Atwater and his assistants were members of the team.
And the team that ended this long drought was a young, confident bunch of players that, on its way to the finals, upended Class B top seed Mount Markham and also needed a penalty-kick shoot-out to get past Lowville.
Every Laker fan remembered how the 2006 title quest had ended in a narrow 1-0 defeat to Clinton and it did not want a repeat of that memory.
But South Jefferson provided a tough challenge. In a singular quest to upend the entire OHSL Liberty division elite, the Spartans had stunned no. 2 seed Westhill (4-1) and no. 3 seed Cazenovia (4-2) on the road to get this far.
For most of the first half, Skaneateles and South Jefferson played on fairly even terms, neither side producing a wide array of scoring chances.
It all turned, though, in the 35th minute, when the Lakers attacked -- and a Spartan player was caught with a handball inside the 18-yard box, leading to a penalty kick. Spencer Parker, one of the few seniors on the Skaneateles roster, drilled the ball straight into the top center of the net, and Skaneateles led 1-0.