COLONIE - The Northville Falcons got the early jump, but it was a different breed of birds that hoisted the Section II Class D championship plaque.
Chris Jackson, who has been nursing fractured ribs since early October, scored two first-half goals, leading the Fort Ann Cardinals to a 2-1 win Saturday at Colonie Central High School to win their third straight Section II Class D championship.
"I've been nursemaiding him since [we played Lake George]," Fort Ann coach Rich McCabe said. "He's been playing sparingly time here and there. I had a feeling today that it wasn't going to be one of the usual suspects to come through."
Northville’s Brad VanNostrand, left, battles Fort Ann’s Kevin Carpenter (20) for the ball during Saturday’s Section II Class D championship game at Colonie High School. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo)
Like they had in their previous two tournament games, the Falcons (10-7-2) scored their goal in unusual fashion. Tyler Henderson's throw found Jimmy Grega in the penalty box, near the far post. Grega's shot bounced off Fort Ann's Patrick Strainer and the ball went into the net for the first goal of the game.
"It really took us a bit of time to get into a groove, I think, early on," Northville coach Steve Clapper said. "They had control and created opportunities on our end. As the half went on, we started creating chances moving forward."
Strainer was injured on the play and left the game until the second half.
Class A Championship
Troy 2, South Glens Falls 1
Class B Championship
Ichabod Crane 2, Greenville 0
Class C Championship
Hoosick Falls 1, Maple Hill 0 (2 OT)
Class D Championship
Fort Ann 2, Northville 1
However, with a one-goal deficit, the Cardinals weren't concerned.
"Giving up one goal - and that was kind of a soft goal - we weren't in panic mode because we have a lot of kids who can put the ball in the net," McCabe said. "We've come back a lot this year."
Jackson scored the equalizer seven minutes after Grega put the Falcons on the board when he tucked a shot inside the left goalpost, tying the game at 1-1. Then, with less than 11 minutes remaining in the first half, Northville goalkeeper Tim Monette was caught out of the net and Jackson took advantage, giving the Cardinals a 2-1 lead.
Fort Ann (15-3-1) scored both goals going into the wind.
"When we got the equalizer, it was good, but when we got it to 2-1, I said to my assistant coach that if we can get to halftime with a 2-1 lead, I knew we were OK," McCabe said. "We were going with the wind. When we have the wind at our back, we can pound it down their throats."
The Falcons did what they could to tie the game before the half ended. Grega had a chance, after taking a pass from Henderson near the top of the 18-yard box, but his shot was snagged out of the air by Fort Ann goalkeeper Jon Allen.
"Fort Ann's a quality team," Clapper said. "We came out and got the early goal. I knew it was going to be a battle. I knew the game wasn't going to be over at that point. They fought back and got two."
Northville had one good opportunity to tie the game in the second half, but Nick Jonas' attempt at a shot went off the side of his left foot and rolled out of bounds. Despite not being able to put a quality shot on goal in the second half, the Falcons kept possession in front of Fort Ann's goal.
"In the second half, we were looking to play our game," Clapper said. "We wanted to play possession ball and play the ball in the air. We didn't want to play the ball in the middle and have our combination play going forward."
The Cardinals will move onto the regional finals Friday in Middletown against Section IX champion Webutuck, while the Falcons' season ended just short of a title.
"We talked a lot about the fact that winning the game isn't necessarily about winning or losing," Clapper said. "We tried our hardest and we do every single game. Whether that's in life or in soccer, we're going to go forward because there aren't always second chances. They did that and I'm real proud of them."