OESJ boys edged in overtime by Fort Ann

Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville’s Tyler Leon (34) keeps the ball in play while under pressure from Fort Ann’s Luke Loso (12) during Tuesday’s Section II Class D championship match at Colonie High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

COLONIE — The emotions of the Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville boys’ soccer team ran from elation to stunned disbelief in the final minute of Tuesday’s Section II Class D soccer match.

The Wolves broke a scoreless deadlock with 7:42 left in regulation and staved off an all-out attack from eight-time defending champion Fort Ann over the next seven minutes. The emotions dropped with 30.1 seconds left as hard contact in a scramble in front of the goal drew a whistle, awarding the Cardinals a penalty kick, which Sayer Lunt converted to tie the match at one and send the title match into overtime.

The Cardinals kept the momentum on their side and with 3:52 Aidan Barns poked home a rebound of a shot by Lunt to give Fort Ann its ninth-straight Section II Class D championship 2-1 Tuesday at Colonie High School.

“We gave them a run for their money,” OESJ coach Mark Snell said. “That was a tough whistle to call that late in the game. But if it was a foul, it was a foul. They had the angle to see what it was. It was draining. We thought we had it until 30 seconds left and that was the end of it.”

After heavy weekend rain forced the postponement of the match from Saturday to Tuesday and forced the games scheduled to be played on Monday to be moved to an alternate site, the pitch as Colonie High School was in playable shape for Tuesday’s three sectional championship matches with just a slight softness in front of the goal at the East end of the field.

Opting to defend that goal first, the Wolfpack kept the play near midfield and turned back the Cardinals, while putting together solid runs of their own to keep the match scoreless at the half.

The teams exchanged solid attempts midway through the second half with Brendan Wright and Lunt having attempts hit the post and the crossbar for Fort Ann and Cardinals goalkeeper Richie Jones came up with a big save on a breakaway by OESJ’s Jack Brundage.

The Cardinals celebrated briefly with 19:16 remaining when Barnes tapped in a ball that Lunt hit off the crossbar only to have the goal waved off by an off sides call.

The momentum swung to the Wolfpack’s side and resulted in a solid attempt when Braden Fredericks pushed a pass forward to Brundage along the right sideline. Brundage sent a cross to the far post where Mason Snell stepped into a shot that was cleared off the line by a Fort Ann defender.

OESJ kept the pressure on and it paid dividends.

Andrew Snell gained control of the ball deep in the Cardinals defensive zone and pushed a pass forward to Zach Mosher, who in turn sent a cross to the far post and this time there was no denying Mason Snell as he finished the play for a 1-0 lead with 7:42 left in regulation.

The Cardinals’ pressure intensified as they pushed for the equalizer only to have several opportunities miss their marks.

With the final seconds counting down, Fort Ann again mounted a strong surge and put a ball in play in front of the goal that landed in a group of players and was cleared wide by the OESJ defense. During the chaos, Fort Ann’s Brendan Wright ended up on the ground and a whistle blew in favor of the Cardinals, putting Lunt at the penalty spot for the potential game-tying penalty kick. Lunt successfully put the ball in the back of the net to tie the match with 30.1-seconds showing on the game clock.

“When they scored with 30 seconds left that kind of let the air out of us,” coach Snell said. “We didn’t have a whole lot left. I was trying to sub some of my guys in to give them a little bit of energy but it was too late. The damage had been done.”

Fort Ann controlled the flow of the game through the opening minutes of the first overtime period and got their golden goal with 3:52 left in the sessions when OESJ goalkeeper Adan Vasquez knocked down a hard shot to the near post by Lunt. The ball spun off Vasquez’s gloves and as he dove to recover the loose ball Barnes charged down the middle to finish the play and give the Cardinals their ninth-straight Class D title.

“[The shot] had some spin on it and it was going backward toward the goal. It happens,” coach Snell said. “It was back and forth. We had opportunities and they had opportunities, but there is a reason why they have won nine years in a row I guess.”

With the victory, Fort Ann advances to regional play and will host Section 9 champion Mount Academy at 2 p.m. Saturday at Colonie High School.

“We finished 16-3 which is a very good season but this is still a tough loss,” coach Snell said. “This is a great group of kids. It is the best group of kids I have had in my years of coaching. These guys have played together for a long time. It is just heartbreaking especially for the seniors. They are not going to get that opportunity and they knew that this was their year to get it done.”

By Paul Wager

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