It was the biggest game in the history of the Akron boys' soccer program and for most of the first half Nick Pfeiffer was a spectator. He got pulled from the lineup early in the half because he was slightly off his game.
But an inspirational halftime speech from senior Andy Tiedt and encouraging words from coach Charlie Pfohl helped Pfeiffer get his head right. And he played a vital role in helping the Tigers win their first Section VI championship.
Pfeiffer scored three times in the second half as No. 2 Akron blew out top-seeded City Honors, 4-0, before about 600 fans Friday night at Amherst High School's Dimp Wagner Field.
Akron (20-1) faces the Section V Rochester-area champion in the Far West Regional Friday or Saturday at Caledonia-Mumford High School.
"It's just a great feeling especially since I had something to do with it," said Pfeiffer, who scored twice off breakaways. "I felt good. Andy had that great halftime speech. After that I just played hard."
Akron's coronation ended a soccer doubleheader that began with Falconer's girls' team winning its first championship with a quick and tidy 2-0 win over Wilson (14-5-2) in the Class B final. The Falcons will meet a Section V foe at 7 p.m. Friday at Brighton High School with a trip to the state final four on the line.
"It means so much," said Sydney Yachetta, who scored the game-winner during the third minute of the game with a header off a Jordan Steele corner kick. "It's our first one. It feels so great."
Yachetta and Skylar Carlson scored for unbeaten Falconer (15-0-4) in its first title game. The Falcons' speed and tenacity doomed Wilson, which was outshot 18-5. Falconer goalie Jessi Edstrom earned her 10th shutout, while Danielle Moon made 16 stops for the Lakewomen.
Pfeiffer was on the sideline when Tiedt scored on a breakaway with 16:24 left in the first half to increase his single-season state record to 61 goals. Akron's all-time goals leader has netted a bunch during his four-year career but none of the senior's previous felt as good as No. 125.
"I don't think I ever felt anything like that [after scoring], and having that many people here it was big," Tiedt said.
"He got us going [with that goal]," Pfohl said. "This is great for the program. It's really the culmination of many years of development in our house and travel league programs."
"[At halftime] I told them not to be afraid," said Tiedt, who set up two of Pfeiffer's goals. "They're a great bunch of guys and they shouldn't fear anyone, especially on the soccer field."
So what exactly was Pfeiffer doing wrong in the first half? The striker wasn't pressuring the defense, giving the sweeper too much time to make a play with the ball. He didn't commit those errors once he returned to the game. In fact, Pfeiffer finished his hat trick by knocking the ball off a defender's foot from close range and into the net for his 23rd of the season during the final 10 minutes.
"He's kind of been in the shadow of Andy. How can you not be?" said Pfohl of Pfeiffer. "It's a great boost to his confidence."
Randy Reiss made 13 saves to earn his eighth shutout, making several stops late in the first half to keep City Honors (14-3) off the scoreboard.
"You've got to hand it to Akron, they've got a lot of skilled players and they're well-coached." said Centaurs coach Marco Jurich.
Class C girls
Shelby Winchester and Clarissa Leasure scored two goals apiece as No. 4 seed Maple Grove topped No. 3 Frewsburg, 4-2, in double overtime of the sectional final at Portville.
Caroline Griffith made 14 saves for Maple Grove (15-3-2).
Class D girls
Sarah Robinson netted the lone goal as top-seeded Ellicottville slipped past No. 3 North Collins, 1-0, in the final in Portville.
Quincey Widger made three saves for Ellicottville (15-3-1), recording her 11th shutout.