Medina boys soccer coach Steve Luksch refers affectionately to senior Brennen O’Connor as his team’s goofball, the kid who can be counted on to loosen everyone up when things start to become a little tense.
As was the case when the team made its traditional trip to a local pizza parlor the night before last week’s playoff opener against Eden. O’Connor rolled into the restaurant sporting a unique combination of clothing that gave his teammates reason to chuckle, Luksch said. The Mustangs, relaxed, went on to defeat Eden and Lafayette on back-to-back days last Thursday and Friday, earning a spot in tomorrow evening’s Class B-1 final against Newfane. Game time is slated for 7:30 p.m., at Hamburg High School in the Buffalo southtowns.
“Brennen’s kind of the guy we go to when we need to have a laugh and relax,” Luksch said of O’Connor, who scored two late goals to help spark Medina to its 4-0 victory over Eden in the B-1 quarterfinal round. “He’s one of the glue guys for us, and an asset to our team.”
For the Mustangs to come away with a victory against Newfane, the team will need to be as glued-together and cohesive as possible. The Panthers are the No. 1 seed in Class B-1, No. 2 overall in the coaches poll of local small school teams, and went 1-0-1 against Medina this year in regular-season Niagara-Orleans League play.
Newfane defeated Medina 4-3 in overtime in the season opener, after the Mustangs battled back from a 2-0 halftime deficit with a hat trick from Steven Anderson, and the teams played to a 1-1 tie at Veterans Park later in the season.
Medina has been playing strong soccer of late, though, with its two playoff wins complementing a 1-0 victory over No. 1 local small school Akron in a hard-fought contest at Vets Park two weeks ago. The Mustangs seem to be hitting their stride, led offensively by Anderson, James Ianni and Anthony Pane, and will not be an easy out for anybody.
The Medina-Newfane clash will take place on Halloween night. It’s a fitting setting for such a big game between two top soccer teams in Western New York.
“Add that to the mix,” Luksch said of the Halloween aspect of the game. “It’s going to be a battle.”
“I’ve never gone to the championship game before, so this is huge,” O’Connor added. “This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. Thinking of graduating high school, this is like graduating soccer.”