Call it the last great coaching decision of Dick White's career. The Kenmore East coach thought he might retire after last season but came back for one more.
White's 34th year of coaching went out with a second straight Section VI championship, the No. 1 ranking in Western New York and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Coach of the Year Award for Region II.
"What else could be better?" said White. "Last year when I was thinking about [retiring] my son said, 'If you're thinking of leaving, why don't you leave on top?' But that's not what I coach for. I wanted to go back to work with this year's seniors, and we really had a great season."
The honor for Region II -- which consists only of New York teams and is one of eight regions in the nation -- nominates White for the NSCAA Coach of the Year Award.
White had three first-team All-Western New York players this season -- senior midfielder Steve Bartkowski, senior defender Justin Wainwright and junior forward Anthony Johnson -- as the Bulldogs went 18-2.
White's record was 391-172-30 in 34 seasons, including 269-126-21 in 22 years at Kenmore East. He won six Niagara Frontier League titles in the last eight years and Section VI titles in 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2006.
"It's one of those things that you look back and it went by so fast," said White, who may work as a college assistant next season. "The loyalty of our kids to our program, and that's what's kept it going. Some kids we had this year, when they were in elementary school they were ball boys and couldn't wait to get up and play at Kenmore East. That people have that viewpoint of our program, that makes you feel good."
Ken-Ton gets its kicks
It's not often that one district finds itself crowned a sectional champion twice in one season -- in the same sport. While Kenmore East won Class AA, Kenmore West earned the Class A championship. The final large school poll had East first and rival West second.
While East has been dominant in the section and NFL (White won six titles since 1999), West won its third sectional title. Todd Marquart, the 17-year coach at West, played on the 1980 title team and coached the 1994 champions. Senior defender Corey DeVille made the first team while junior goalkeeper Nick Doyle and senior captain Andy Page (school record for assists in season with 18 and career with 38) earned spots on the second team.
"We were really happy to see that," White said. "The kids [from both schools] are pretty close and know each other from playing over the summer. They had a great run at the end. Todd and I, we couldn't believe it."
But they're still rivals. When asked his favorite moment of his career, Bartkowski said it was when his free kick beat West this year.
Memorable All-WNY moments: For Andy Schwert, who also played four years of hockey and lacrosse at West Seneca East, it was making the sectionals as an eighth-grader. . . . Cristobal Martinez of Iroquois played in a sectional final as a freshman when his brother, Randy, was a senior. . . . Buffalo State-bound Tony Schiappa was most proud of Williamsville East's seven-week stay atop the large school poll, a stay that was sustained thanks to Andrew Gage's top moment: He had the game-winning goal over Kenmore East in the championship game of the early-season Clarence Tournament.
Around the field
At the top of the All-WNY class were Bartkowski and Casey Derkacz of Hamburg, both of whom were named to the NSCAA's all-region team. . . . Bartkowski, Mark Konitsch (Clarence) and Bill Eberhardt (Lancaster) were repeat All-WNY first-teamers. . . . The large was in charge in All-WNY voting -- the large school team was the exact same as the overall team, with one addition. . . . Nichols goalkeeper Rick Pierce (17 shutouts the last two years) was NSCAA all-state small school first team. . . . Panama's Zachary Camarata had 55 goals and 43 assists in his career. John Vallone of Holland -- the local team to advance furthest as the Class C state runner-up -- and Jose Balseca of Newfane joined him as fourth-team all-state.