Now the last dominoes of the lost high school spring sports season began to fall. Earlier this week, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association pulled the plug on state tournaments. That was an inevitable move after both of Long Island’s sections canceled their spring sports seasons, overrun as that region still was by COVID-19. Now all that was left was to see if upstate sections, whose areas were not as heavily hit by the pandemic, would get a chance to salvage a regular season and playoffs. All of them had held up hopes for it, knowing full well that, within days, the state was set to shutter schools for the rest of the academic year to make it all a moot point.
This gives us yet another chance to look back on 2019-20 in high school sports and now we turn our attention to boys soccer. No one did it better than Skaneateles, who with only a handful of seniors in its lineup had modest expectations going into the fall, but gradually improved as the season went on. It was not until the Section III playoffs that the Lakers really started to peak, anchored by a rock-solid defense that would dispatch three league rivals in a row, starting with a 1-0 shutout of Marcellus in the quarterfinals, continuing in the semifinals with a tense 1-0 win over Clinton and then, in the championship game against Westhill, scoring late in regulation to pull it out 2-1 and claim the sectional crown.
After all of this drama, Skaneateles headed into the boys soccer state Class B tournament, where in the regional final at Liverpool the Lakers again played stellar defense and, with a second-half goal from Owen Cheney, turned back Oneonta 1-0 to earn a trip to the state final four at Middletown. Once there, the Lakers had Owen Cheney score twice and Tylar Moss also convert in a 3-1 win over Haverling to put the Lakers in the title game against Center Moriches. Here was where goalie Andrew Neumann was particularly great, making several big stops, and Cheney’s goal in the second overtime produced a 1-0 victory as Skaneateles earned a second state championship to go with the one it earned as an undefeated team back in 2010.
Another tremendous post-season run in boys soccer was put together by Jamesville-DeWitt in the Class A ranks. The Red Rams only went 10-5-1 in the regular season, overshadowed in its own league by the likes of PSLA-Fowler and East Syracuse Minoa, and it lost twice to the Falcons in the regular season. But the sectional playoffs provided a series of memorable events, starting in the quarterfinals, where Sam Bobrek’s second-half tally pushed J-D past ESM 1-0, leading to a semifinal against Whitesboro where, trailing late in regulation, the Red Rams somehow tied it on Zach McBennett’s goal and won it 2-1 in overtime on a tally by Will Quackenbush, the first goal of his varsity career.
The great run of J-D boys soccer did not end there, either. Completing a sweep of the top three seeds, the Red Rams, in the sectional Class A final agianst PSLA-Fowler, surrendered a 1-0 lead, but went to overtime and knocked off the Falcons 2-1, Patrick David securing the game-winner and the sectional championship. Then, as an underdog in the regional final, J-D won again when Ryan Brazell’s early goal held up and the Red Rams topped Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 1-0. After four straight one-goal post-season wins, the magic for J-D ran out in the state semifinals at Middletown as Greece Athena, from Section V, proved too tough and the Red Rams lost 2-0, but that couldn’t erase all that J-D accomplished.
Really, the story of Class AA boys soccer in the Section III ranks was twofold. First, it was about the total dominance of Baldwinsville during the regular season as it played 16 regular-season games and only suffered one blemish, a 2-2 weather-shortened draw with Fayetteville-Manlius. Deep in its attack and recording nine shutouts, the Bees did not allow a goal until its fifth game of the season, against Nottingham, and never gave up more than two to anyone. That depth was reflected in the fact that B’ville had 15 different players score at least one goal, but none had more than Brennan Walsh’s total of 15 as Steve Foertch added 12 goals and Malik Davis had nine, with Tyler Johnson producing a team-best 11 assists.
It also helped Baldwinsville boys soccer that F-M, thought to be its only real challenger for Class AA supremacy, was stunned in the sectional quarterfinals by Liverpool in penalty kicks. Once 3-10, the Warriors scrambled late in the season just to get into the playoffs, then pulled off the F-M upset and then beat Henninger in the semifinals before B’ville handled Liverpool 3-0 in the title game to gain yet another sectional title. Confident going into the regional round against Shenendehowa, the Bees instead got burned early by the potent Plainsmen attack, Shen going on to win 3-1 and deny B’ville a chance at its first-ever state championship, which eventually went to Long Island’s Brentwood.
Another remarkable championship run was put together in Class C boys soccer by Bishop Grimes. Paced by the potent duo of Deng Mawien and Byam Mugushu, who combined to score 37 goals between them, the Cobras won 11 in a row to close out the regular season, dominated the early rounds of the sectional playoffs and then, in a tense championship game against Westmoreland-Oriskany, Grimes pulled it out 2-1 on an overtime goal by Mugushu to earn the program’s first-ever sectional title. Anything that took place after would feel like a bonus for the Cobras, even if its run ended in the regional finals with a 3-2 defeat to Lansing, who eventually reached the state title game before falling to Rhinebeck.
Though it would not get as far as its girls counterparts that had an undefeated state championship run, Poland’s boys soccer team still emerged as sectional Class D champions. During the regular season, the Tornadoes went 13-3, carried by Kade Ozog, who scored 29 goals. In the sectional playoffs, Poland, from a no. 3 seed, handled LaFargeville 6-1, blanked McGraw 3-0, survived a 2-1 battle with Lyme in the semifinals and, in the title game, went to double overtime with Fabius-Pompey but won it 2-1 when Ozog nailed that 29th goal of his sason. Only in the regional round did Poland get stopped, 3-0, by Marathon, who a week later in Middletown gained possession of the state championship.
Among all the news about college decisions made in various area high school sports, two of them involved past members of West Genesee’s boys basketball team. Malik Zachery, who went to a prep school in Florida after his days in Central New York, announced (via social distancing) that he was going to the University at Buffalo, gaining Division I status. Meanwhile, Lucas Sutherland, the charismatic forward who led the Wildcats to its first-ever state championship in 2019, announced that he was transferring from Siena to Bryant University, staying in the Division I ranks. All the while, people awaited to see whether Baldwinsville standout J.J. Starling would leave for a prep school, as anticipated.