Noah Thompson can point to the moment when he knew his East Aurora boys soccer team was going to have a fine season.
“Coach (Kevin) Beale said it to us,” the senior said. “We played Canisius at the beginning of the year. We tied them, 0-0. They were a very good team, and he came out of that game really pumped. I said, we’ve really got something here. I realized we could be something special.”
What’s more, the performance against the Crusaders may have calmed Thompson down a bit. It’s sometimes not easy to live up to the strong tradition of a good program.
“To be honest, I was nervous,” he said. “In past years, we’ve had some very good teams and you always want to live up to that. I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to get it done.
“Coach put us in shape and helped us become a complete team. The season went way better than I thought. Going to the states and being a state finalist was … I couldn’t even explain how much fun it was.”
The Blue Devils finished in second place in the Class B competition, losing to Plattsburgh in the championship game. No team from Western New York went farther in the postseason, as East Aurora finished 18-3-2. As for Thompson, he became one of the 15 players selected by area coaches for the All-Western New York team.
No team likes to lose its last game, especially after going so far. The three-sport standout, however, maintained a good perspective on the season.
“It did take a while to get over it, but we have to look at it that we got far and we have to appreciate that,” Thompson said. “Someone once said, smile because it happened and don’t cry because it’s over. If you look it like that, not many people get a chance to go that far. To be able to do that was amazing.”
Thompson, who scored 50 career goals, was the only Blue Devil on the first team of the All-WNY squad. However, midfielder Pat Phillips and defender Sam Franz of East Aurora were named to the boys’ small school team.
The area’s best players often has plenty of seniors on it, and such was the case this time. A total of 13 of the 15 players on the squad were seniors this time. In 2014, 12 of 14 players were seniors.
One of the two players to be All-WNY in back-to-back years was Troy Brady of Grand Island. That wasn’t his only honor, since he was named the area’s player of the year as well as a first-team all-state selection. Brady had 27 goals and 15 assists as a senior.
The other repeater was Joey Keem, a defender from Sweet Home. He played in 72 straight games in his varsity career.
Brady had one of his teammates selected as one of the area’s best players. Andrew Carlson was a senior defender on a squad that won 19 straight games, reaching the state semifinals in the process.
Canisius also had two players chosen for the squad, as the Crusaders fell a game short of capturing the CHSAA championship in New York City. Max Montante had a knack for scoring big goals, including a late score to beat St. Joe’s for the Class AA title in the Monsignor Martin Association championship. Midfielder Will Bolton, who assisted on Montante’s goal, was the team’s most valuable player.
Williamsville North won a sectional title in 2015, and Ian Harris was picked as one of the region’s best players. The midfielder was selected as the ECIC I player of the year.
Seven other teams supplied one player each to the list of the area’s best.
Forwards: Ali Shawish scored 48 goals and 16 assists this season for Lackawanna, jumping from 39 goals and six assists last season. Parker Shetler of Lancaster tied a school record for most points in a game. Andrew Sakowski of Lockport will be missed, as the Lions’ top scorer in ’15 spent four years on the varsity.
Midfielder: Pa Lu led his I-Prep team to a B-2 championship. He had 16 goals and 12 assists in helping the Presidents to a 14-4-1 season. Donald Minderler of St. Joe’s was an All-Catholic pick as a junior and senior.
Defenders: Will Smith led the Hamburg defense to an impressive 25 shutouts in the last two seasons combined, with 11 this season. Captain Jake Ratka led Starpoint to a perfect record in ECIC play.
Goalie: Kyle Cunningham was the most valuable player on his Clarence squad.
Frank Butcher of Grand Island was selected as coach of the year.