Some headers, quick kicks and a cleaning-out of the notebook after thawing out from Sunday's state finals:
There is something very cool about holding the state championships at your country's Hall of Fame for the sport, and it has to make the experience that much more special for the competitors.
The complex is a great hosting site as well -- I can't imagine other schools or sites which could host five finals in one day (or 10 semifinals on another) in the same area. Having the fields so close to another gives the day a festival-like feel. When you're at one field watching one game, you hear roars from time to time on the others -- it's kind of like being at a golf tournament and hearing reactions on other holes.
Each of the five championship games is followed by a neat closing ceremony in the large lobby of the Hall of Fame. A stairway becomes something of a stage as all of the players from the final two teams are called up until the stairway is filled with both teams. A very nice touch.
"Our thanks to everyone here at the Hall of Fame for making this an amazing weekend," said EA coach Kevin Beale.
"It's one of the best experience I ever had," said senior Kevin Kot. "The team was great, a great group of guys who are fun to be around. The fans made the experience the best -- driving five hours to watch us play soccer in cold weather was just great."
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Class B state final: Bronxville 2, East Aurora 0
First half: EA's first threat comes on a charge down the left wing by junior Barry Hunt about eight minutes in; Hunt would pressure the Bronxville defense all day and force several corners. ... A long shot by Hunt is saved with 26:85 to go. ... Sophomore defender Frank Moynihan makes one of several nice plays in the back. ... Bronxville goalie Remy Griggs made a nice save on EA junior midfielder Devin Aiken's left-footer off a scramble in the box. ... Bronxville takes a 1-0 lead on Brian Rogers' goal with 17:20 left. After a stretch of EA pressure, a clearing ball is sent forward, far enough that EA goalie Dan Coulter comes off his line. Sweeper Ben Kolich gets to it and tries to clear, but Rogers gets his foot on it to push the ball up the right wing; he gets to it and scores on a tough-angle shot that deflects off the retreating Colter. ... Coulter makes a nice in-close save on Ilya Dubinski. ... Joe Raczynski's cross off of a Kurt Knolle through ball, nearly lead to an own goal on Bronxville as a defender deflected the ball just over the Broncos' crossbar. ... Raczynski's header off of a Knolle corner kick goes wide left. ... Kot's cross is picked off by goalie Griggs ... Proving very dangerous despite having fewer chances, a Bronxville player has a left-footed liner go wide left. ... EA had four corner kicks in the first half.
Second half: Rogers follows a nice trap with a long shot that's saved by Coulter. ... Less than two minutes in, EA's Devin Aiken appears to be pushed down by a Bronxville defender just inside the penalty box on the right wing, but there's no call. ... A cross by EA junior Shane Healy forces a corner kick, but like much of the half, the Blue Devils' pressure doesn't lead to quality scoring chances. ... Noble Carpenter's header goes over the East Aurora goal. ... Kot's header off a free kick by Knolle goes wide left. ... Briggs saves a Racynski shot off a through ball by Knolle with 26:15 left. ... Kolich neatly rides a Bronxville player off the ball. ... Perhaps EA's best chance of the day is Hunt's shot that goes over the net with 22 minutes left after some tense moments in the box for Bronxville. ... Nice save by Coulter of a Rogers header off a cross with 12:15 left. ... As EA moves forward, that has resulted in some chances for Bronxville -- Coulter knocks a ball over the net for a nice save on Carpenter. ... Kot tries a flip-throw-in from the right sideline in the Bronxville end. ... With about a minute left, Rogers scores again and Bronxville has its 2-0 lead. He beat an EA player to a ball sent into the EA half and neatly popped it over the onrushing Coulter.
EA coach Kevin Beale: "It was a beautiful game - he made plays, their backs were really tough on us in the final third. We played well. At halftime we were pleased - we felt we could attack and pressure and ccreate something in the box. We thoguth they looked a little vulnerable. In the second half they defended a lot better. They were tight. We moved the ball, we were pleased, we're pleased with the effort. In the second half we never really got the quality look at the goal that we thought we could.
"Our young guys did well. Our defenders didn't allow [Rogers] to turn, they did awesome on him. Frank Moynihan played great on him."
EA senior forward Kevin Kot: "They had a really solid defense. For 75 percent of the game we were controlling most of the play in their half. We just really couldn't get it together and get quality chances in on the net. That made the difference. ... No. 10 [Rogers] kind of made their team."
EA senior sweeper Ben Kolich: "We just couldn't develop that final pass into the box.
"At the end of last season we lost 11 great seniros. I had no idea tha tthe younger underclassmen could actually support us, but they really did and I'm really proud of them all. Because of what they did, we were able to get here."
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Class AA state final: Brentwood 2, Clarence 1
First half: While Brentwood's speed and skill are clearly evident, Clarence is hanging in there -- David D'Amico has a shot go wide left seven minutes in, and Ben Scalzi has a shot go wide right about four minutes later. ... Norvin Acosta, a tall player who loomed large all game, fires a shot over the Clarence goal with 26:40 left. ... Brentwood takes a 1-0 lead with 25:30 left by taking advantage of a free kick in the middle of the field with a nicely executed play. Christian Galindo tapped a dummy pass through the legs of Acosta and a reared-up Joseph Lopez let go of an absolute surface-to-top-right-corner missile. Just a great play. ... Galindo blasts a shot over the goal soon after. ... A nice win by Derek Maier leads to a Clarence corner by Chris Cournan, but not much else. ... Clarence's Alex Stephan shoots wide left wth 17:30 to go. ... Clarence goalie Nate Konitzer makes a save of a weak shot by Julio Olivares with 15:00 left. ... Galindo is in deep down the left wing but his shot hits the side of the net. ... Lopez has a shot which Konitzer makes a nice adjustment on for the save. ... Olivares' low shot is saved by Konitzer. ... Another Olivares shot is deflected wide to give Brentwood a corner. ... Joyser Velasquez shoots the ball over the net with 10:00 left as the Indians keep pressuring Clarence. ... Tyler Hamill can't catch up with a crossing pass by Scott Berardi. ... Lopez and his quick feet threaten down the left wing, but his cross goes harmlessly through with 6:00 left. ... Clarence ties the game at 1-1 with 4:47 left in the half on a very nice goal by Hamill. Maier sent a great through ball down the middle for Hamill, whose first touch put the ball nicely past the onrushing keeper and into the goal. ... But Brentwood comes right back, taking a 2-1 lead wtih 3:13 left when Lopez pounds in a shot from the right wing after a through ball from Hancell Guevara. Some Clarence defenders are complaining that the play was offsides (certainly impossible to tell from my angle at midfield). ... D'Amico has a shot go over the net with 2:55 left. ... Maier is given a yellow card for unsportsmanlike conduct inside two-minute mark (when time is kept on the field).
Second half: Full disclosure -- the second half started with me interviewing some EA players, but I kept one eye on the game in which it didn't seem anything significant happened ... Brentwood's Velasquez recieves a yellow card for a hard foul with 27:12 left. ... The free kick is taken by Stephan, Hamill has a shot blocked and Maier's blast goes over the crossbar. ... Hamill sends a ball to Scalzi, whose shot to the upper-right corner is handled by Brentwood goalie Dan Hernandez. ... Stephan crosses for Hamill, who isn't able to get much on a header which is saved with 24:35 left. ... Off of a free kick, Hamill lets go of a great, hard shot from the right side that sails just past the far upper corner with 22:20 left. ... Konitzer makes a great, diving save on Guevara with 19:00 left. ... Another nice save by Kontizer as he knocks Andrew Jean-Baptiste's shot over the crossbar with 15:10 left. ... Scalzi gets a yellow card with 12:23 left after a foul. ... Stephan helps create Clarence's last best chance. Maier crosses to Hamill, whose header is saved inside the final two minutes.
Clarence senior Tyler Hamill, in a sentence that sounded like most opponents' description of Clarence this season, said of Brentwood: "They were really fast, a quick team with a lot of skill."
Clarence senior goalie Nate Konitzer: "This memory will last a lifetime."
Clarence coach Mike Silverstein: "They're a great team. We couldn't really get any quality chances. Nate was outstanding.
"[Brentwood] is so quick off the ball. That was something we don't see a lot of. That's usually our card, we're quick and aggressive, but their team speed was great."
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At the final whistle, Brentwood fans celebrated with the team on the field -- one supporter is overjoyed enough that he embraces the referees as they are walking across the field. "Just a very happy fan," says a smiling linesman.
Brentwood's title came in its third trip to the final four in four years. It lost in the final in 2006 and in the semifinals the previous year. The Indians' state title is its second since it shared the Class A (then the largest class) title with Guilderland in 1989.
Brentwood coach Ron Eden is the nephew of outstanding former longtime North Babylon coach John Eden. In Brentwood's 1989 championship season, Ron Eden was an assistant coach for Brentwood, which beat John Eden and North Babylon in the Suffolk County playoffs (I know that because I was a bench-warmer for NB :-) ).