The fifth time was the charm for Ellicottville.
Following four years of crushing defeats at the hands of perennial Class D power North Collins, second-seeded Ellicottville (11-6-0) and senior Connor Greene finally broke the seal and brought home the school’s first sectional title with a 1-0 win on Friday before an estimated 500 at a windswept Howe Field on the campus of Hamburg High School.
In the Class C final, top-seeded International Prep scored a dramatic 1-0 win over No. 2 Randolph.
The winners will play the Section V (Rochester area) champions next weekend at Eastridge High School.
“Every team I’ve ever had has led up to this moment,” said Ellicottville coach Matt Finn, who is in his 10th season at the helm. “This is more than this team – it’s the whole program. Look at all the alumni here. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of ‘good luck’ texts I’ve gotten in the last few days, too. It’s taken a long time to convince them that this is the way to do it, but that makes it even more awesome. It’s just amazing right now.”
Greene’s tally, a right-footed missile just over the goalkeeper’s head from 17 yards out, came with just 4:25 remaining in regulation. It was the midfielder’s team-leading 15th goal of the season.
“There was a little alley and I was just hoping somebody could get a shot off,” Finn said. “As soon as I saw Connor Greene with it – the kid is so fast and such a great athlete. He hit it really hard and put it right where it needed to go.”
Greene, a four-year varsity starter, added: “Someone dropped the ball in and it just kind of popped up to me right inside the 20-yard line. I eyed it up and thankfully it went in. This is the greatest feeling in the world, especially with it being my last year. This is a team that trusts each other and really works well together.”
Ellicottville goalkeeper Jeremy Bordini preserved the championship by making a huge diving save with under a minute left. The senior finished with five saves. North Collins, which has 19 Sectional crowns to its credit, finished the year 11-3-2.
In the nightcap, International Prep sophomore Emmanuel Iheke broke a scoreless tie 4:40 into the first overtime period to lift the Presidents (14-1-0) to their first Sectional title since 2009. It’s just the second-ever Sectional championship for a Buffalo Public Schools boys soccer program.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” said Iheke, a native of Nigeria.
Iheke was a late substitute as several of the I-Prep players were forced to leave due to cramps. The game-winner, a left-footed strike, came from 20 yards out and snuck into the lower left corner of the net. Eighth-grade goalkeeper Ibrahim Omar earned the shutout, making seven saves, including a clutch one just moments before Iheke netted the golden goal.
Randolph (16-1-3) last won a sectional championship in 1989.