Grand Island’s 2015 season ended with a 3-2 loss in the state semifinals, a game that coach Frank Butcher referred to as his team’s worst of the season.
The Vikings haven’t lost since. That defeat served as a motivator for this year’s 12 returning players, 11 of them seniors, and their perfect season continued Friday night with a 2-1 win over Section V’s Greece Athena.
“I think the guys wanted another chance,” Butcher said. “They’ve been talking about unfinished business, and it’s hard to look that far ahead, but we’ve done so well all year long. You’re lying if you don’t say that’s in the back of your mind, just because it left such a bitter taste in our mouth, so I’m really glad we have the chance to go back.”
The Vikings knew they needed a quick start on Friday night, and Anthony Emmi gave it to them just 25 seconds into the game with a goal assisted by John Griffin.
“It was one of the most exciting moments of my life,” Emmi said of the goal. “It was super important. Being up kind of got the nerves out of us, and it was good to take the lead.”
Less than six minutes later, Lou Fabiano added to the lead with a goal of his own, assisted by Garrett Robinson. For both Emmi and Fabiano, Friday’s goals gave them nine for the season.
“We started off very strong. We came out hot. The ball got across to me, and I put it away,” Fabiano said. “I felt amazing. We were pumped – the whole team was pumped. Going up two that quick was big. It held us.”
Fabiano’s goal stood as the game-winner when Greece Athena’s CJ Takatch scored with 11:59 remaining in the first half. The Trojans continued to apply pressure through the rest of the game, but the Vikings held on for the win.
Butcher was happy to see Emmi and Fabiano score as his two top goal scorers, Griffin and Robinson, picked up the assists. All four are seniors.
“We’ve been working all year on our form and how to shoot, and I trust anyone in any situation,” Butcher said. “We talk about dealing with pressure, and they’ve just been able to come up at big times whenever we need it. Someone’s been able to step up, and luckily we did again today.”
The Vikings will play in the state semifinals next weekend.
For the third year in a row, Allegany-Limestone fell short against a Section V team in Class C. This time it was World of Inquiry defeating the Gators, 5-0.
Although he had reason to be frustrated, Allegany-Limestone coach Jon Luce had only good things to say about what his team accomplished this season and his hopes for the future.
“I just really appreciate all the hard work they’ve done for me,” Luce said. “There was never any questions; they were willing to work and do whatever I asked them to do all season long, so I’m definitely not disappointed. Like I told them, there’s only five teams in our section still playing, and we were able to be one of them to represent our section, so I was very proud.”