On two consecutive nights at the end of August, three of the area’s high school boys soccer teams would engage in high-profile contests that offered a rousing start to the 2017 season.
It began Wednesday at Alibrandi Stadium, where Christian Brothers Academy and Jamesville-DeWitt would go to overtime before the Brothers pulled out a 3-2 decision, and continued Thursday at Swan Pond with Fayetteville-Manlius taking on Cicero-North Syracuse and striking early to beat the Northstars 2-0.
The creation of the Salt City Athletic Conference threatened to undo some aspects of the rivalry between CBA (who is not in the SCAC) and J-D (who is), but the boys soccer sides still carved out a game with each other that made for a memorable season opener.
Throughout the first half, chances were frequent on both ends, but it remained 0-0, Red Rams goalie Alex Carbacio on his way to 12 saves as CBA counterpart Greg Buck would get 10 saves.
Then the Brothers went in front on Dan Melvin’s goal early in the second half, only to have J-D rally with goals from Jalique Huntley and Tarak El-Zammar to go in front, 2-1,
Staying poised, CBA pulled back even when Tommy Daviau found the net heading in a corner kick. So it went to OT, which only lasted five minutes before freshman Benito Vlassis, off a feed from Ayo Oguntola (who already had an assist on the night), streaked down the left side and then thrust a left-footed shot past Carbacio.
Just 24 hours later, the scene shifted to Swan Pond, where for its opener F-M honored long-time head coach Jeff Hammond by naming the locker room at the facility in his honor. That emotion would carry over into a swift start against a perennially strong C-NS side.
Barely eight minutes into the game, Grant Olick-Sutphen scored off a feed from Alex Bychkov and put the Hornets in front. Just 93 seconds later, F-M attacked again and converted again, this time with Bychkov finding the net and Cole Teelin earning the assist.
More than 70 minutes remained, but while F-M didn’t convert again, it did not have to, either, since its defense would turn back every C-NS attempt to catch up, goalie Tim Kaiser recording eight saves. Northstars keeper Pat Gazzillo recovered from the rough start to make 11 saves.
Far from all this, Manlius-Pebble Hill got its season underway by making a long road trip to Stockbridge Valley and shutting out the Cougars 2-0. One goal in each half proved enough as Simon Hoke and Josh Hutko converted, with assists going to Gopal Neopaney and Naldo Chen. The Trojans took 25 shots to Stockbridge’s five.
Bishop Grimes won its opener, too, edging past varsity newcomer Utica Academy of Science 2-1 on Thursday afternoon. The Cobras got the only goal of the first half and then exchanged with the Atoms in the second half, though held on thanks to 12 saves from goalie Matt Tarby.