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Orchard Park ends 34-year title drought in Class AA boys soccer

It was a moment frozen in time, and not just because it was snowing.

Senior forward Connor Saeli took a deep breath and scored on a penalty kick with 11:40 left in the second overtime as Orchard Park outlasted Niagara-Wheatfield, 1-0, to win the Section VI Class AA boys soccer championship Saturday night before an estimated 250 at Hamburg.

The game was a battle of wills as much as skills as it was played in a steady sleet with the temperature registering 32 degrees. The sectional title was the Quakers’ first since 1980.

Saeli was awarded the penalty kick when he was taken down by the Niagara-Wheatfield goalie after breaking through the Falcons’ backline of defense.

“I was so nervous, there was a lot of pressure, I tried not to think about it. I always know where I’m going” to shoot, “I try not to look there,” said Saeli. “It’s been 34 years since Orchard Park last won. It’s really surreal to be that team.”

The 18-minutes of overtime had more action than the 80 minutes of regulation. Both teams had 30-foot breakaways and the Falcons hit the crossbar. Saeli’s ninth goal of the season beat the goalie to his left.

“I’ve had Connor on varsity for four years, it’s his time,” said Orchard Park coach Josh Dannecker. “The way the weather was, it was a slip here and somebody got an opportunity. It was a tight game the whole way through, we both had lots of opportunities and the goalies played great on both sides.”

Orchard Park goalkeeper Adam Hansgen was busy making eight saves.

Orchard Park (14-2-3) advances to the Far West Regionals at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Hamburg.

Class A

Williamsville South 2, Starpoint 1, (OT): Senior captain Jordan Ackerman scored with 8:05 left in overtime as the Billies eliminated the No. 1 ranked team in the state.

The title is the first for the Billies since they won back-to-back crowns in 1998-1999.

“I took a low shot toward the corner, and the goalie kind of caught it in his chest and kind of bobbled it a little bit because the ground is tough in these conditions,” Ackerman said of his 11th goal of the season. “He dropped it and it slipped behind him in the net.”

South (16-2-1) advances to the Far West Regionals at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Hamburg.

After a scoreless first half, Starpoint senior forward KJ Maldiner scored his 20th goal of the season with 13:02 left in the game.

Williamsville South answered with 4:44 remaining when Joe Malinowski found the net.

The loss was the first of the season for the Spartans, who finished 17-1-2.

Class B

East Aurora 6, Wilson 0: The shutout string continues for the Blue Devils. East Aurora earned its third straight in the sectionals and its 12th of the season in winning the Class B title.

The overall title was EA’s fourth in a row. The Blue Devils (16-3-1) advance to the Far West Regionals on Friday against Section V champion Livonia, a winner over Bath on Saturday.

East Aurora looked every bit the No. 3 ranked team in the state and the No. 1 ranked small school in the WNY poll. The Blue Devils controlled play throughout while limiting Wilson to two shots.

Sean O’Leary provided EA with all the offense it needed when he opened the scoring with a goal on an assist from Noah Thompson off a throw-in.

Bryce Schiltz, a freshman, scored his 13th goal of the season on a pass from Fay Harrison giving East Aurora a 2-0 halftime lead.

The Blue Devils added four more goals in the second half. Thompson netted his 18th from Eric Roetzer and Pete Morgan connected later to make it 4-0. O’Leary’s second of the game made it 5-0 and senior Brian Norman put a ball just over the goalkeeper’s outstretched hand for the sixth.

“We’ve been preparing very hard, we’ve been playing very good teams like Canisius and Starpoint was extremely good competition,” said Harrison, a senior midfielder.


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