Within a matter of minutes, the Christian Brothers Academy boys soccer team experienced excitement, joy, surprise and disappointment, all with a Section III Class A championship on the line.
What appeared to be the Brothers laying claim to its first sectional crown in five years turned, instead, to Fulton ending a title drought twice as long as it prevailed 3-2 Saturday at Liverpool High School Stadium.
Twice, CBA had trailed and twice it had pulled even, but it was what took place after the game went 2-2 that will linger in the memories of both the Brothers and Red Raiders.
With 14:09 to play, Josh Hulslander’s goal had tied it. Fired up by this, CBA attacked again and, just 50 seconds later, Fulton was whistled for a foul inside the 18-yard box.
Given the penalty kick and a chance to put his team in front for the first time, Matt Potenza shot – and Fulton goalie Conner Ware dove to his right to make the stop inside the post.
Even with this, the Brothers were controlling the flow of play and appeared ready to move out in front – but ultimately, the fact that it did not do so would prove decisive.
Cameron Stuart broke CBA’s pressure and moved down the left side. Then he crossed to the middle, where Donovan Duell’s well-timed header eluded Matt Buck and found the net with 7:22 to play.
With its third lead of the game, the Red Raiders played some of its best defense to protect it, with several timely clearances as the clock ran out.
Fulton, who had risen from a no. 6 seed to knock off no. 3 seed New Hartford and no. 2 seed PSLA-Fowler to get this far, was trying to spring its third upset in as many rounds against CBA, who sat at no. 3 in the state Class A rankings.
The rainy conditions would affect both goalies, starting with Buck, who midway through the first half dropped a long Red Raiders shot that Connor Wilde jumped on to convert and put his team up 1-0.
As the half wore on, though, CBA applied more pressure of its own, and it paid off less than four minutes before halftime when Dean Vlassis, from the point, curled a shot inside the top left corner of the net.
Less than 90 seconds into the second half, Fulton jumped back in front as Peter Nalle’s corner kick dropped untouched to Fulton’s Nathan Stuart, who converted.
Even with a 2-1 lead, the Red Raiders did not feel safe, for good reason. Again, the Brothers increased its possession time, and pounced when Ware could not hold on to a long shot by Benito Vlassis, Hulslander tying it again – but only for a handful of minutes.
East Syracuse Minoa owned the top seed in Class A and was in pursuit of its first sectional title since 2011, but those dreams were dashed last Tuesday when it lost, 1-0, to CBA in the sectional semifinal at Chittenango High School.
From the outset, CBA was the aggressor, peppering the Spartans’ defense with a series of runs and scoring opportunities. For the most part, ESM resisted them well, Ryan Cacace having to make 19 saves.
As expected, the Brothers focused its defense on Spartans forward Kyle Scalzo, who entered the night with 26 goals. And it would get chances, too, but all nine of its shots were turned away by Matt Buck.
They were still 0-0 when, with 14 minutes left in regulation, CBA earned a free kick near midfield. Jordan Knapp took it, and the ball fell to Benito Vlassis, who gained possession, turned, and fired a 10-yard strike past Cacace for the game’s only goal.
With the loss, ESM finished its season at 15-2-1.
While this was going on, Fayetteville-Manlius saw its reign as sectional Class AA champions end in the semifinal round at J-D against the same team it beat for the sectional title a year ago.
Baldwinsville, the top seed, beat the no. 4 seed Hornets 3-0, taking charge in the second half after F-M, with a strong and effective defense, had contained the Bees throughout the first half.
When the second half started, though, B’ville took over, using effective passes to open up its attack and make F-M pay whenever it challenged them.
Just 2:31 into the second half, a series of passes led to Brennan Walsh, from the left corner, passing to the middle, where Price one-timed it past F-M goalie Chris Szidat inside the right post.
Much more damage was done in the 52nd minute. Here, Price again was stationed at the point, this time left wide open by a gap in F-M’s defense as Jason Hahn crossed from the left. Price powered home his second goal.
Though B’ville already had enough, it tacked on a third goal with 14:35 left as Walsh lofted a beautiful 30-yard free kick from the far left side that Tyler Johnson converted.
B’ville advanced to a sectional final against Cicero-North Syracuse, who upended Liverpool 1-0 in overtime. F-M ended its season at 9-8-1 but only graduates a handful of seniors and should have a strong roster back for 2019.
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