Ryan Schroen, just named man of the match in Clarence Yotes' 3-1 Tehel Cup championship win over Celtic United, neatly encapsulated the purpose of the BDSL, Buffalo's competitive men's soccer league, and its single-elimination tournament.
"If this is what's after college [soccer], I'm happy with it," said the long-time Canisius College center back. "It's lot of fun, it's competitive, and I'm with all my buddies celebrating, so it's a good time and does mean a lot."
Goals from Gary Boughton, Tyler Hamill and A.C. LaFlore were enough firepower to carry the Yotes in a match that was much closer than the final score indicated. Steve Carcaterro's penalty kick in the 88th minute was United's lone tally.
For Boughton, who has played both indoor and outdoor at the professional level, the meaning behind the Tehel Cup win mimicked Schroen's sentiments.
"It feels awesome, man. These guys are my best friends from college, it's just a great time every time we step on the field," said Boughton, currently the coach of the Erie Community College women's program. "It's special - we're all happy for each other more than ourselves individually, and that's been our M.O. this year."
Boughton, who recently finished his NPSL season with the Rochester River Dogz, put Clarence on the board in the 29th minute on a pretty individual effort. Clarence teammate Tony Calarco played a long ball forward to Boughton, who settled the pass and shrugged off the tackle of Celtic's Tommy Huebsch before turning toward goal. A swift nutmeg of a United center back and firm outside-of-the-foot finish into the lower-right corner capped the moment of brilliance.
"The defender came and had his legs open, I just tried to slip it through, it worked and [then the shot] found the side netting," Boughton recollected after the match. "I was just kind of in the zone when I did it. Awesome goal, one of my favorites of recent memory."
[Tweets: Look back at the goals, chances and special moments from Clarence's win]
After stifling several United half chances in the second half, Clarence scored what seemed to be the icing on the cake in the 86th minute. A sharp feint on the left side by Brendan Brody gave him space in behind the Celtic United defense -- as he reached the end line, he faked a cross and cut back hard onto his left foot.
Instead of trying to rocket a shot from a bad angle, Brody laid the ball back to teammate Tyler Hamill at the penalty-kick mark, and the former Clarence High School and Syracuse Orange forward put enough pace on his strike to deflect off goalkeeper Nick Smith's outstretched hand and in.
Celtic United briefly found life in the 88th minute, however, as Brian Theuerkauf was hauled down in the 18-yard box, and the center referee pointed to the penalty kick spot with little hesitation. After missing against Rogue FC last Thursday, Carcaterro would not make the same mistake again, ripping a shot to Previte's right.
[Read: Clarence downs BSC Raiders in semifinal to advance to Tehel Cup title game]
The final two minutes, plus stoppage, took a turn for the bizarre. In thwarting a desperate United foray forward, A.C. LaFlore booted a long bouncing clearance from his own side of midfield. Smith, however, misread the trajectory of the bouncing ball, letting it sail over his head into the gaping net. During the celebration, Clarence players taunted Theuerkauf, resulting in Hamill's sending off.
HE SAID IT: On what set Clarence apart from United - "Our heart - we have a good bunch guys over there. We all play for each other, and we just wanted it." -- Clarence forward Tyler Hamill
HISTORY: Clarence last won the Tehel Cup in 2010, as a championship division side. Six players listed on that year's (albeit abbreviated) roster - J.J. Hughes, David Martinez, Len Previte, Chris Cournan, Andrew Incho and John Siefert - saw the field for Clarence on Thursday.
WHAT'S NEXT: By winning the Tehel Cup, Clarence receive first right of refusal to represent the BDSL in the 2017 Werner Fricker Open Cup, the same tournament that last year's Tehel Cup champion FC Yemen competed in this spring.
Clarence: Len Previte; Jordan Katz, Ryan Schroen, A.C. LaFlore, Chris Cournan; Andrea Conte, J.J. Hughes, Gary Boughton, Tyler Hamill, Jose Perez; David Martinez
Subs used: John Siefert, Kenny May, Aaron Zelko, Anthony Calarco, Andrew Incho, Brendan Brody, Matt Sprague
Celtic United: Nick Smith; Ian Brown, Steve Carcaterro, Chris Barbolini, Shane Greene; Blade Sorrentino, Brian Theuerkauf, Chris Berardi, Vinny DiVirgilio, Luke Loecher; Patrick Schulz
Subs used: Tommy Huebsch, Michael Gallivan, Dan Warner
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who loves the new stadium and turf at Sweet Home High School, at email@example.com