Winning never gets old. Especially when each team works so hard to create its own identity.
Clarence added yet another plaque to its soccer trophy case when the top-seeded Red Devils knocked off No. 3 Lancaster, 2-1, in the Section VI Class AA title game that was played at Tonawanda’s Clinton H.Small Stadium.
This makes three consecutive sectional titles for Clarence and eight in the last 10 years.
"They definitely never get old. Each team is different and that’s they way you want to approach it," Clarence coach Mike Silverstein said.
"We have to enjoy this right now, we have to celebrate this. We have to celebrate the way we started two months ago, focused on this. Making sure we got here for the three-peat. These kids wanted it since day one and I give them a ton of credit for working for it."
The Red Devils now advance to next Saturday’s Far West Regional at Sweet Home High School where they will face the Section V champ at 7:30 p.m. The Section V championship game is slated for this Monday.
A fast-paced first half played into the Red Devils’ favor as they controlled play as Taha Ahmed and Jacon Gajewski staked them to a 2-0 lead.
Ahmed scored with 12 minutes left in the first half. The refs appeared to have missed a handball, but as play continued Ahmed was able to drive the loose ball home.
Jacob Gajewski extended the lead to 2-0 off a corner kick by Ross Showalter.
"It’s unbelievable to get this win," said Gajewski, who scored his first ever varsity goal.
"All the adversity. That one goal, the lucky bounce that they got. We overcame it and just ended up finishing the game. It’s unbelievable."
The fact the game winner came off a corner kick made it even more thrilling for the Red Devils as that has been the one area of their game that has been lacking bite.
The game took a huge momentum shift in favor of the Legends in the final minute when Jake Klimczak took a shot that handcuffed Red Devil goalie Spencer Catalano.
It marked the first goal Lancaster scored on Clarence this season after the Red Devils won both regular season games by a 2-0 final.
The Legends hung with Clarence as best they could throughout the second half, but they couldn’t get the equalizer. Though not through lack of effort.
"Absolutely not. I feel like at the beginning of the year it took our legs underneath us. Get ourselves focused," Lancaster coach Chris Palmer said.
"The last three to four weeks it’s come together quite well. There’s been a noticeable shift in how they approach practice. How they approach the games."
The Red Devils showed mental toughness by not folding after that late goal.
"We’ve been talking about that a lot lately. Mental toughness is gonna win games," said Silverstein. "This game is not gonna come easy. Look at the weather. The conditions. This is just tough out here. You have to be mentally strong."