With his team searching for a goal, International Prep coach Tony Alessi gave junior forward Ahmed Hassoon a quick breather and a challenge.
“We were getting down to like the last 18 minutes, so I took turns and I subbed every one of my wingers and my striker,” Alessi said. “I gave them two minutes. I put them all back in. For Ahmed, that two minutes fired him up. I said, ‘Now I need you to go strong the last 12 minutes.’”
As rain poured and a stiff wind blew at his back, Hassoon scored the go-ahead goal on a penalty kick with 7:38 left Wednesday. Just over a minute later, he delivered an insurance marker in top-seeded I-Prep’s 3-1 win over No. 2 Lackawanna in the Section VI Class B-2 boys soccer final at Hamburg High School.
In a matchup pitting the defending Class D state champion Presidents and unbeaten Steelers, Hassoon was the difference.
“He sure went strong,” Alessi said with a smile.
Now a showdown with the No. 1 small school in Western New York awaits I-Prep, the second-ranked small school.
I-Prep advanced to Tuesday’s overall Class B final at Hamburg and will face East Aurora, a 5-1 winner over Alden in the Class B-1 final Wednesday night.
The Presidents overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit to improve to 14-3-1.
Lackawanna (18-1) put on the pressure early. Jabreel Almontaser scored off the Steelers’ fifth corner kick in the first 10 minutes.
“They were bound to score” after that many chances, Alessi said, “but I’m just glad we regrouped at halftime and were lucky enough to get two goals against a very good team.”
Lackawanna won the game’s coin toss and elected to play with the wind in the first half, leading to its early opportunities.
“We wanted the wind at our backs as well because we wanted to take the lead early and then just play defense the second half,” Alessi said, “but it didn’t work out like that.
“I told my kids at halftime, ‘Just settle down, relax, we’re going to have the wind this half, and just play your game and you’ll be fine.’”
Abdirahman Ali scored the game-tying goal shortly after halftime for I-Prep.
In the last three years, the Presidents have won three Section VI titles in three different class sizes. Playing up two classes from a year ago, I-Prep rose to the challenge.
In Class B-1, No. 2 seed East Aurora rolled to its fifth straight sectional title, building a 4-1 lead at the half.
Noah Thompson has been a starter on four Blue Devil championship teams, and it didn’t take long for the senior captain to set the tone Wednesday.
Thompson scored in the second minute and added another goal in the second half. Sean O’Leary also scored twice for East Aurora (15-2-2). Pat Philips had one goal.
“We capitalized on set plays,” said EA coach Kevin Beale. “But Alden, give them credit. They were on us. Our defenders and our goalie had to make some saves early on.”
While celebrating the championship win, it didn’t take long for Beale to turn his attention to the next game.
“We’re happy,” he said. “A big one with I-Prep. It’s been set up that way. They’ve got a lot of ability. They’re strong. We’ve got to step up and get ready for Tuesday.”
Matthew Ess scored for fourth-seeded Alden (14-5-1).