By JAMES A. ELLIS
QUEENSBURY - The sweatshirts worn by the Ichabod Crane players carried a clear message, "2012 Unfinished Business."
Broadalbin-Perth’s Tucker Wilcox (8) looks to set up a play while being tracked by Ichabod Crane’s Seth Scarano (8) as the Riders’ Tyler Jablanski and Patriots’ Ben Bellandi look on during during Section II Class B semifinal action Thursday at Queensbury High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
Last season, the Riders and the Broadalbin-Perth Patriots clashed in a battle of the unbeatens in the Section II Class B championship game, with the Patriots knocking off Ichabod Crane en route to winning the Class B state championship.
Thursday, the two teams battled again, only this time in the Class B semifinals in a steady drizzle on a natural grass field at Queensbury High School.
Broadalbin-Perth tallied a first-half goal, which the Riders answered early in the second half. However, a controversial goal with eight minutes remaining, in which an Ichabod Crane player appeared offsides, proved the be the game winner, ending the Patriots shot at a second-straight sectional championship and a shot at defending their state title, leaving them on the short end of the 2-1 final score.
Class AA Semifinals
Shenendehowa 0, Niskayuna 0 (Niskayuna wins on penalty kicks)
Bethlehem 2, Albany 0
Class A Semifinals
Troy 3, Mohonasen 1
South Glens Falls 1, Averill Park 0
Class B Semifinals
Ichabod Crane 2, Broadalbin-Perth 1
Greenville 2, Coxsackie-Athens 0
"We knew going in that it would not be a 1-0 decision because they are capable of scoring," Broadalbin-Perth coach Brian Henry said. "They got a real nice goal and a somewhat controversial one on the game winner, which we thought he was offsides but the referee saw it the other way. It is a tough pill to swallow but my guys played a hell of a game and had a hell of a season. It is always tough to see a run like that come to an end so abruptly but that is part of high school sports, especially soccer."
For the top-seeded Riders, the victory gives them a third-straight shot at the Section II title.
"It was pretty amazing," Riders coach Mattias Nordgren said. "But we are not there yet; we still have one more game to go. We lost in the finals two years in a row and now we are going back for a third straight time. I think we learned something from it and this is a good feeling."
The Riders (17-0-1) controlled the game early, maintaining possession on the rain-slickened grass, but the Patriots' Justin Marek was the first player to put a quality shot on goal.
The Patriots (15-3-1) again threatened on a counterattack when Joe Zarecki found Ben Bellandi with a pass. Bellandi raced toward goal only to be ridden to the ground near the top of the box before he could fire a shot.
The best first-half scoring opportunity for the Riders was thwarted by the alert play of goalkeeper Patrick Brown.
Brown punched a long shot attempt away but the ball landed at the feet of Tyler Jablanski who blasted a line drive on net. However, Brown recovered and was in position to make the stop.
The Patriots broke the scoreless tie in the 37th minute when Tucker Wilcox found Francesco Mastrocinque open deep in the penalty area. Mastrocinque fired a shot on net that Ichabod Crane goalkeeper Pierce Reilly knocked down. The rebound went to Mastrocinque who instead of firing on net pushed the ball to Zarecki, who finished the play for a 1-0 Broadalbin-Perth lead that held up at halftime.
"They controlled the game the first 20 minutes and once we finally shut them down the next 20 minutes were ours," Henry said. "We generated some nice opportunities and ultimately that goal. It took us a little bit of time to get going with the slick conditions and the nerves. We settled down nicely and went into halftime with a one-goal lead."
The Riders opened the second half the same way as they did the first, on the attack with a solid possession game.
This time the effort paid off as Seth Scarano headed home a centering pass from Justyn Verbraska for the equalizer.
The squads battled strong between the boxes but could not find the tiebreaker until the 72nd minute of play.
After a reversal of possession on an out of bounds call, the Riders threw the ball in deep in the Broadalbin-Perth defensive zone.
Scarano lifted a ball over the B-P defense toward the right post that found Diego Lezama wide open and able to finish the play for a 2-1 advantage.
Although the Broadalbin-Perth coaches and players argued that Lezama was well offsides on the play, the officials ruled in favor of the Riders and the goal stood.
"We knew it wasn't over," Henry said. "We told the guys we could not stop attacking. We had to keep going. We knew that one goal was not going to be enough today and obviously it wasn't."
The Patriots fought back over the final eight minutes but could not come up with an equalizer before the final whistle blew.
"In the first half we did not play our game against them," Nordgren said. "They didn't want to lose. We lost to them last year in the final and they're a really good team. I really thought we just didn't want to lose today."
Although the season and high school careers of the senior members of the Patriots ended Thursday, the contributions they made to a squad that won back-to-back Foothills Council championships and posted a 44-8-6 record over the past three seasons was not lost on Coach Henry.
"The season is one thing but if you look back at their careers here and most of these guys played three years for me and they have a state championship ring and a whole lot of great memories," he said. "They are walking out of here today knowing they changed the way Broadalbin-Perth soccer is played. I am very grateful to them and will miss them a lot. They are great athletes, great kids, and just fun to be around. They are a special group."