One team is a defending champion trying to repeat with a lot of fresh faces in the lineup. The other is a perennial contender who hasn't come this far in a while.
Together, the East Syracuse-Minoa and Jamesville-DeWitt boys soccer teams are both in hot pursuit of the Section III Class A title and could meet for the championship.
What's more, both of them reached the semifinal round by virtue of 1-0 victories in last Thursday's quarterfinal round -- the Red Rams in a dramatic overtime battle with Carthage, the Spartans in a tense contest against New Hartford.
J-D, the no. 3 seed, was at home, dealing with a Carthage squad that had gone 9-7-1 in the regular season. On the surface, it seemed like a matter the Red Rams could handle with ease.
It proved to be anything but easy. As often as the Red Rams attacked in 80 minutes of regulation, it could put nothing past Comets goalkeeper Matt Hayden, who picked up 11 saves on the afternoon.
So regulation ended 0-0, as did the first 10-minute overtime period. If the teams remained even at the end of the second OT, they would need a penalty-kick shoot-out to decide it, putting Hayden and Mac Keehfus (three saves) squarely in the firing range.
But just 1:19 before that could happen, two J-D freshmen saved the day. One ninth-grader, Zach Tanner, made a timely pass to another ninth grader, Noel Williams, and Williams poked a shot past Hayden to send J-D to the semifinals.
As this was going on, further to the east ESM, the no. 5 seed in Class A, was meeting its no. 4 seed namesakes from New Hartford in a rematch of last year's sectional final.
Just like J-D and Carthage, the two Spartan sides played through a 0-0 first half, with good chances on both sides.
ESM's defense would remain strong all afternoon. Len Kerznowski, Tom Petterelli, Zach Van Auken and the rest of the back line kept New Hartford at bay, and new goalkeeper Casey Sullivan put together six saves.
All this led to ESM going in front in the 62nd minute, when Adam Rowell, unassisted, punched a shot past New Hartford goalie Tom Gilroy that proved to be the game-winner.
ESM (11-6-2) will play Whitesboro or Oneida in next week's Class A semifinals, while J-D (11-5-2) will get Fulton or Chittenango in that same semifinal round.