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Lackawanna secures historic victory, trip to regionals

Lackawanna has fielded some good boys soccer teams over the years, but this edition of the Steelers has proven to be a special group.

Of course history makers do tend to stand out, and this crew proved once again it's most definitely in an elite class all its own.

Lackawanna captured its first overall Section VI championship Wednesday night, cruising past B-2 champion Riverside, 4-1, at Bob Barczak Stadium. Jabreel Almontaser scored twice and added an assist during the Steelers' four-goal first half as another quick start in a championship game enabled Lackawanna to punch its ticket to where it has never gone before – the Far West Regionals of the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association tournament.

"We did what we could to win," Steelers coach Abdulsalam Noman said. "This is first time in history we're going outside Western New York. I'm very proud of what the boys did. This is an opportunity for them to showcase the Lackawanna city school and what type of players we have in the city of Lackawanna."

The Steelers, the top-ranked small school in the Western New York Coaches Poll, will face Section V champion Pittsford Sutherland at 5 p.m. Saturday at Spencerport High School with the winner of that contest advancing to the state final four.

That's a goal Lackawanna definitely has its eyes on after winning its 13th straight game – a competitive schedule that included nonleague wins over St. Joe's, McKinley and Lafayette.

The last team to beat the Steelers? It's Riverside from the ever-tough Buffalo Public Schools' D'Youville Cup.

Unlike that 1-0 loss to the Frontiers where Lackawanna failed to convert on early chances, the Steelers scored early and often in this clash of champions.

The Steelers took a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute on Abdallah Omar's goal off an assist from Almontaser. Five minutes later, Hamidou Balde knocked in Ali Alomari's corner kick. Them came Almontaser's goals which were absolute rocket shots. The first came from 18 yards away and found the corner. The other came on a free kick from 30 yards away that proved too hot for the goalkeeper to catch, going in off his hands.

Riverside's Poe La Khee scored on a penalty kick with 1:07 left. That's the only opportunity the Frontiers cashed in as they misfired on a few others they had which could've made things interesting had they found the back of the net.

Alas, it wasn't Riverside's day. It's Lackawanna's.

It's one that's been years in the making for the Steelers, who cleared the I-Prep/Grover hurdle by beating the defending champions in the B-1 final last week.

"I'm happy we won," Almontaser said.

"We've been stressing to them this whole year the opportunity we had as a team because we knew from last year's success coming into this year we could do it … we could make history," assistant coach Waheb Noman said. "Hopefully we can keep it going. The sky's the limit with this team."

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