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5 soccer matches to attend: Oct. 28 - Nov. 1

While this weekly feature usually homes in on college matches only, there's too much going on in the local soccer world this week to limit our aims.

1) Lackawanna High School vs. International Prep, 5 p.m. Oct. 28 at Hamburg High School's Howe Field. $5 to get in.

What is at stake: This is the Class B-2 Championship game, but it also holds larger meaning for Western New York soccer. Two of Buffalo's soccer-crazed subcultures go head-to-head, as many high schoolers among the longstanding Yemeni community in Lackawanna, the focal point of this brilliant 2013 feature, face International Prep, the reigning Class D State Champions who were reclassified before this year.

Formerly known as Grover Cleveland High School, I-Prep draws students from across the globe -- most recently from countries in both west and east Africa, as well as a strong Burmese contingent.

Why you should attend: Simply put, it's high-quality soccer. Each team has a star -- for the Steelers, it's 48-goal scorer Ali Shawish, a marvelously quick, clever forward who scored the game-winner against Southwestern in the B-2 semifinals. For I-Prep, it's Pa Lu, the team's go-to attacker with a missile of a shot. Expect the game to be close, but it won't easy for Lackawanna, as I-Prep played a far stiffer non-league schedule this year (St. Joe's, Canisius, Clarence).

I-Prep's Pa Lu (7) is the Presidents' main attacking threat. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News file photo)

I-Prep's Pa Lu (7) is the Presidents' main attacking threat. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News file photo)

2) UB Bulls men's soccer vs. Bowling Green, 7 p.m. Oct. 30 at UB Stadium. Free admission.

What is at stake: Because there are only five conference games in the Mid-American Conference, each tilt is incredibly important, especially when there's so much parity. Coming off 1-1 draw against Northern Illinois, which featured an unlikely offensive hero in Daniel Cramarossa, the Bulls welcome the Falcons, who stand one point behind UB in the conference standings.

Bowling Green takes a different approach with its schedule, as the program has played No. 12 Syracuse and No. 23 Ohio State in the middle of the MAC slate to remain sharp, while the Bulls focus their energies entirely on preparing for conference matches.

Why you should attend: It's close to a must-win affair for the Bulls, who can't afford to get leapfrogged by the Falcons with just one conference game left. A win over BGSU coupled with an Akron victory over West Virginia seals a postseason tournament berth for UB, and there's no doubt that head coach Stu Riddle would rather avoid needing a road win against his former program, Western Michigan (RPI 79), on Nov. 7.

Russell Cicerone scored UB's only goal against Akron off a PK in the third minute. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Friday's match against Bowling Green is a huge one for Russell Cicerone, left, and the UB Bulls. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

3) Canisius men's soccer vs. Manhattan, 7 p.m. Oct. 31 at Demske Sports Complex. Free admission.

What is at stake: Because the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament is in Disney this year, all MAAC teams earn a postseason spot. After a brutal start, the Griffins are peaking at a good time, as their three-game conference winning streak has given them a shot at finishing in the top five, which means they'd play three games in four days, instead of four in five, if they were to win the conference tournament.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men's soccer standings as of Oct. 27, 2015.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference men's soccer standings as of Oct. 27, 2015.

Why you should attend: It's Senior Night for the Griffs, and Dermot McGrane's team is well-stocked with players who will suit up for the final time at Demske Sports Complex. Starters Andrew Coughlin, Ryan Schroen, Alex De Carolis, Nicolo Baudo and Chris Berardi, plus reserve Eric Ashley, will all be honored for their careers at Canisius.

If the Griffs can upset Rider on the road Wednesday and knock off a thoroughly beatable Manhattan team Saturday, then they'll be an unenviable opponent in the postseason.

Redshirt senior Ryan Schroen will join five other Griffs on Senior Night at Demske. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

Redshirt senior Ryan Schroen will join five other Griffs on Senior Night at Demske. (Don Nieman/Special to The News)

4) Hamburg High School vs. Grand Island, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Howe Field. Admission is $5.

Why it matters: With the A-1 Championship on the line, the top two seeds square off at Hamburg's home field, which has hosted the vast majority of Section VI playoff soccer matches the past few years. A match-up between the two schools earlier in the season resulted in a 3-3 draw, and you can read about Tony Schiappa's Bulldogs here and Frank Butcher's Vikings here.

Why you should attend: Keep an eye on Grand Island's Troy Brady, an Empire United product, as well as Hamburg's Justus Hoffman, who made about the smoothest transition possible from center back to striker. If you're an unbiased soccer fan, just appreciate how much better the quality of high school soccer has become over the last 10-15 years. It's unbelievable.

From left, Hamburg defender Will Smith, head coach Tony Schiappa and striker Justus Hoffman. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

From left, Hamburg defender Will Smith, head coach Tony Schiappa and striker Justus Hoffman. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News file photo)

5) St. Joe's Collegiate Institute vs. Canisius Crusaders, 2:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at Niagara University's Niagara Field.

Why it matters: Regardless of the sport, St. Joe's vs. Canisius is a heated rivalry. In boys soccer, St. Joe's has won the Monsignor Martin Association playoffs the last two years, but in 2012, the Crusaders were crowned state champions. After Canisius claimed the first head-to-head of 2015, the two teams met again for a nail-biter on Oct. 15, when St. Joe's scored twice in the game's final 10 minutes to win 2-0 [see a photo gallery from that match].

Why you should attend: The rubber match should be a special occasion. You'll see some familiar last names on both teams -- Canisius' Max Montante is the younger brother of Jake, who plays at Canisius College; while Evan Scales is the younger sibling of Braden Scales, a junior who starts for UB. Last year's championship went to penalty kicks, and perhaps similar drama can be expected for Sunday's clash.

Email Ben Tsujimoto at btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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