Nov 02, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Twelve long years ago, Cicero-North Syracuse and Liverpool squared off for a Section III boys soccer championship.
They came close to clashing again, but Utica Proctor spoiled those plans in a dramatic Thursday-evening Class AA semifinal doubleheader at Nottingham High School.
Liverpool, the top seed, went into double overtime with Proctor, the no. 5 seed, only to fall in a 2-1 classic. Two hours later, C-NS, the no. 2 seed, fended off the comeback attempt of no. 6 seed Fayetteville-Manlius and won by that same 2-1 margin.
All of this began with the Warriors, absent an outright sectional title since 2002, trying to trip up a Proctor side that had already dethroned four-time defending champion Baldwinsville in the quarterfinals, giving up the first goal before rallying to win in yet another 2-1 decision.
Much the same thing happened here, only on a delayed basis. The Warriors and Raiders battled through a 0-0 first half, neither side budging despite a litany of good scoring chances.
However, early in the second half Liverpool seized a 1-0 lead, Owen Thompson landing the go-ahead goal off a feed from Nick Zingaro.
Proctor, as it did with B’ville, quickly responded as Moulid Somow took a pass from Jose Figueroa and ripped it past Liverpool goalie Cody Peck, making it 1-1, where it stood for the rest of regulation.
Through the first of the sudden-victory 15-minute overtime periods, Liverpool had the bulk of chances to win it, but its shots kept getting chased down by Raiders goalie Refik Begic, who recorded 12 saves.
Half of the second OT period passed, too, and the battle seemed to be drifting toward penalty kicks. But with 7:06 to play, Kevin Gordon, off a feed from Somow, drilled a shot from 30 yards out that eluded Peck and fit inside the left post, giving Proctor its first-ever sectional finals berth – and suddenly ending the Warriors’ season at 14-3-1.
After watching all this, C-NS got its semifinal turn against F-M, whom it lost to during the regular season, and it didn’t take long for the Northstars’ payback quest to hit paydirt.
Just 1:16 had passed when, off a corner kick, Bryan Sibble passed it to the middle and T.J. Sprague connected with a header to the top of the net.
C-NS continued to apply early pressure, and in the 12th minute exploited a Hornet turnover in the middle as Sibble grabbed possession and, when F-M goalie Jim Brady charged, Sibble flicked it over him into the unoccupied net.
Having gained a 2-0 lead so quickly, C-NS could not follow it up, and gradually F-M settled into its own attack as the first half wore on. That paid off in the 34th minute when the Hornets’ Lucas Averell was fouled inside the 18-yard box, leading to a penalty kick that Aaron Epling converted.
That momentum carried over into the second half, as F-M continued to make runs at the Northstars. But C-NS did a strong job of protection in front of goalie Jon Runge, getting a rare start in the net in place of Charlie Willard, who moved to defense.
Despite this, the Hornets had plenty of chances to pull even. With 13:30 left, a strong corner kick from Epling bounced around the box, but no F-M player could manage a solid shot on the net.
The decisive moment came with 2:20 left. A C-NS foul gave the Hornets a free kick from 20 yards out. Epling, with his left foot, drove a hard shot – and Runge, perfectly timing his leap, deflected it over the net. The ensuing corner kick went nowhere, and the Northstars were able to run out the clock.
This leads to a sectional final with a lot of flavor. C-NS played Proctor way back on Sept. 1, in the season, winning by that all-too-familiar 2-1 margin in a game played in 90-plus degree heat. There’s a good chance it will be more than 50 degrees colder for the rematch, with a title on the line.