From players to coaches, Lackawanna has been bold in making predictions for this season. The Steelers mission has been to make a state tournament run and ultimately win a title.
The Section VI champions are still on track to do so but it took tying Saturday’s Class B Far West Regional with just four minutes left in regulation and then scoring the game-winner with 22 seconds remaining in the first overtime.
Steelers’ junior Mohammed Nasser headed a rebound into the net to give Lackawanna a dramatic 2-1 overtime win over Section V champion World of Inquiry School 58 at Spencerport High School.
Lackawanna (19-2) moves onto the state tournament next weekend at Middletown High School.
“We’ve been talking about states all year,” Nasser said. “We’ve been playing year-round, playing in summer leagues. We wanted it. ... We told our guys we had to play until the last minute.”
It was the second game of a Far West Regional tripleheader in the Rochester area. Lackawanna was Section VI’s only winner. In a pair of 1-0 games, Clarence fell to unbeaten McQuaid Jesuit in Class AA and Allegany-Limestone lost to Byron-Bergen in Class C.
Facing an explosive World of Inquiry (14-6) squad, Lackawanna tied the game late on a goal from junior Abdallah Omar, who finished on a loose ball in front of the net.
On the game-winner, junior Jabreel Almantaser perfectly sailed a free kick right toward the front of the net and goalie Jimmy Mejia made the stop but the rebound went to a charging Nasser, who got his head on the ball and sent it into the goal.
Almantaser, who his coaches called a playmaker and difference-maker, also assisted on Lackawanna’s first goal.
“That was probably our toughest win of the season,” said Lackawanna assistant coach Waheb Noman, whose father Abdul heads the team.
“The way the goals transpired – what a win. We played one hell of a team and for our guys to pull it out shows their heart and will to win.”
World of Inquiry broke the scoreless tie with 23:54 left in the game. A ball sent toward the Lackawanna net slipped through the defense to Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, who dribbled in alone and beat Steelers keeper Ibrahim Albakri low to the right corner.
Lackawanna stepped up its intensity in the second half after being outshot 10-3 in the opening 40 minutes.
“The expectations for this season were high and we told them that if they want it, they have to go get it,” Waheb Noman said. “We knew coming into this year we could do it and make history for the program and we just continue to write our history.”
In Class C, Allegany-Limestone (18-2) made its fourth straight trip to the Far West Regional and it turned out to be the closest the Gators have come to advancing. Their effort fell short, though, as Byron-Bergen sophomore Sam Pringle scored on a counter attack, breaking past the defense and sliding the ball into the goal, nine minutes into the second half to account for the game’s lone tally.
“It kind of hurts a little more that we were this close,” A-L coach Jon Luce said. “The first three years that we were here we were outmatched a little bit but today we thought we had a good matchup and we were playing right with them.”
Allegany-Limestone junior goalkeeper Conner Golley was nearly perfect on the afternoon, stopping 12 of 13 shots, and at least four of those were diving saves.
“The Gators best chance came in the first half on a direct kick at the top of the box from senior Dylan Talbot. Bees goalkeeper Brandon Kropf leaped in the air to send Talbot’s shot over the goal. With under four minutes to play, Talbot got to a loose ball in front of the net but couldn’t get a good shot off with a sea of defenders around him.
In the day’s final game, McQuaid (20-0) got a goal from Dan Malloy about eight minutes into the opening half and held on from there.
For Clarence (17-2-1), goalkeeper Kenny Suen made several big saves in the second half, including back-to-back stops from point-blank range with 25 minutes left, to keep the deficit at one.