In a day for the underdog at Lewiston-Porter's Elia Stadium, the sweetest victory of championship Wednesday belonged to No. 11 Sweet Home. The Panthers completed a worst-to-first turnaround by beating fourth-seeded Lockport, 1-0, in the Section VI Class AA boys soccer championship game before an estimated 2,000 fans. Junior Ryan Baroudi scored the decisive goal off a penalty kick with 2:32 left in the first half as Sweet Home advanced to the Far West Regionals to face Section V's Penfield (16-1-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Elia Stadium.
"That was the sickest game we've ever played," said junior Tom Drabinski just before his Panthers teammates gave third-year coach Chris Hershey a Gatorade victory shower.
"To go from literally worst last year to first this year was absolutely remarkable," Hershey said. "I believed from Day One this team had the heart and spirit to do this."
Williamsville East (16-2-4) and Royalton-Hartland (13-5-1) also advanced to the Far West Regionals. Class AA and C are Friday, while A, B and D are Saturday at Elia Stadium.
Junior Jason Tartick scored twice in the first half as third-seeded Williamsville East hung on to beat top seed Iroquois, 2-1, in Class A.
No. 5 Roy-Hart and No. 2 Holland played to a 2-2 tie to share the Class B title, but the Rams advanced by winning the penalty-kick shootout, 5-3.
Sweet Home went 0-16-1 last season and scored a mere five goals. But an infusion of determined kids from a junior varsity squad that lost just two games last season enabled the Panthers to turn things around quickly. Sweet Home (12-8-2) beat the Nos. 6, 3 and 2 seeds to reach the final.
"I think what made the difference with this team is we have a balanced team," Hershey said. "They couldn't single out any one or two guys to take us out of the game."
Winning goalkeeper Andy Goetz made eight saves.
Lockport (17-2-3) applied the pressure in the second half and appeared to score the tying goal with 5:39 left, but it was waived off when the officials ruled the ball went off the hand of a Lions player before Justin Zimmerman booted it into the net.
A Williamsville East team featuring 11 seniors secured the program's eighth sectional title thanks to Tartick's scoring touch.
Dave Wilckens scored for Iroquois (15-4-3) midway through the second half. "It's a beautiful thing to finally come out here after last year losing against Grand Island (1-0) to finally come out and get the 'W,' " said Tartick, who has 23 goals after scoring three last year. "We came up big in the beginning to put some in."
It was all about survival for Roy-Hart in winning its first sectional championship. Matt Barr and Nathan Hall scored in the first 6:47 of the second half to give Roy-Hart the lead, but Josh Meier and Joel Pfeiffer each scored during a five-minute stretch in the final 8 1/2 minutes to tie it.
Holland (18-2-1) hit a crossbar and a goal post in overtime and pressured the Rams' defense for the final 60 minutes of the game. When the Dutchmen didn't misfire on their quality chances, Roy-Hart goalkeeper Brandon Guild denied them -- the junior finished with 20 saves.
"He's the greatest goalie we've ever had," said Barr, a senior and four-year varsity starter. "He really pulled through, and he's really the backbone of the team. He's played great all year. If it wasn't for him, we would have lost."
Holland, which lost in the state semifinals last year, played without top scorers Scott Lippman and Jeremy George because they violated school policy.