QUEENSBURY - A last-minute deflection ensured the Northville Falcons would have their first berth in the Section II Class D championship game since 2009, when they were state finalists.
Nate Edwards deflected a header from St. Johnsville's James Miller, which seemed destined for the back of the net averting overtime and preserving the Falcons' 1-0 win over the Saints in Wednesday's Section II Class D semifinal game.
"They crossed it; It went really far," Northville goalkeeper Tim Monette said. "Then my midfielder Nate Edwards shouldered it out and it went in the opposite direction and we cleared it."
Northville’s Tyler Henderson heads the ball past St. Johnsville’s Tristan Engle as St. Johnsville’s Kodi Brown (9) and Northville’s David Onzo look on during Wednesday’s Section II Class D semifinal game in Queensbury. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo)
Forcing overtime certainly wouldn't have been a surprise after the eighth-seeded Saints won their two playoff games in overtime.
"I really thought it was in when it left his head," St. Johnsville coach Travis Heiser said. "I thought it was in the back of the net and we were going to tie. I thought the game was going to change. We pushed everybody up toward the end and we had opportunities to score."
That was St. Johnsville's last best chance to score in a game where Northville (10-6-2) had most of the chances.
Class D Semifinals
Fort Ann 1, New Lebanon 0
Northville 1, St. Johnsville 0
Class C Semifinals
Hoosick Falls 2, Stillwater 1
Maple Hill 2, Lake George 0
Class A Semifinals
Scotia-Glenville 1, South Glens Falls 0
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 6, Mohonasen 0
Class C Quarterfinals
Hoosic Valley 3, Greenwich 1
Albany Academy 3, Schoharie 0
Hoosick Falls 6, Galway 1
Mechanicville 2, Middleburgh 1
Brad VanNostrand seemed to have most of the opportunities to put the ball in the goal, but when his shots were wide, his shots were stopped by St. Johnsville goalkeeper Ricky Jasewicz.
"Our goalie played great for his first year and kept us in a lot of games, and he did no different today," Heiser said.
Despite having early opportunities with the wind at their backs, the Falcons got on the scoreboard in the 34th minute. And like the game-winner Saturday against Argyle, the goal came with a little bit of a lucky bounce.
Jimmy Grega sent a pass up to Tyler Henderson, who lofted a shot that deflected off a St. Johnsville player and over Jasewicz and into the net for the game's only goal.
"Jim had a great header to set me up," Henderson said. "I volleyed it. It hit off the defender and rolled over the goalie. I don't know how it happened, but I'll take it."
The Falcons went into the break with a one-goal lead, and looked for more in the second half.
"We had to come out and play not to lose, but come out and play to win," Northville coach Steve Clapper said. "A lot of teams will come out with a lead and milk that. We knew if that happened, St. Johnsville would step up and move forward. You saw them come from behind in many of their playoff games."
The Falcons had their best chance to add to their lead in the 58th minute when Skyler Buyce got past Jasewicz, leaving an empty net. Buyce put a shot on goal, but St. Johnsville's Dylan Klock jumped in the shot's path and the St. Johnsville defense cleared the ball out.
"We had our chances, but it's tough," Henderson said. "It's a lot of pressure, since it's been on us, not being in sectionals since 2009. It's a lot of pressure on everybody, but we held it together."
The Falcons will move on to Saturday's championship game, which will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at Colonie High School against second-seeded Fort Ann, which defeated third-seeded New Lebanon, 1-0, on Wednesday.
"I'm just excited to make it," Henderson said. "I know the seniors and I and a couple of other guys have been on varsity for a while. We always get sent home early. It's nice to finally get a good run in sectionals."
The Saints (11-8) ended one of their best seasons in recent memory and came within a goal of reaching their first sectional championship game since 1985.
"This is a great group of guys," Heiser said. "These five seniors and this entire group as a whole has kind of turned the program around, playing all year, playing indoor, doing everything I've asked them to do. I think we've surprised ourselves at times."