HAMBURG — All season long, the Medina boys soccer team has excelled at scoring on set plays. It’s rather fitting, then, that the Mustangs won the Class B-1 crown on a corner kick.
With less than four minutes remaining in the second overtime, Medina drove the ball into the Newfane zone, using a shot that deflected off a Panther to set up a corner opportunity. The first kick wasn’t successful, but Medina earned a second. And a third.
On the third, senior Brennen O’Connor executed a perfectly placed ball that rode the right-to-left wind and found its way into the top right corner of the net. Goal.
“When it went in, I felt like i was about to pass out,” O’Connor said. “I always like to practice ridiculous shots like that one, a corner kick in a crazy wind. I was almost in shock that it went in.”
With the goal, No. 2 Medina earned a 2-1 double-overtime victory over No. 1 Newfane in the Class B-1 boys soccer championship game, played at the Hamburg High School turf field on a wet and wild Thursday evening. It marks Medina’s second sectional championship in three years, and the Mustangs will take on rival Akron in the Class B final on Saturday afternoon, also at Hamburg. Start time is slated for 2:30 p.m.
After O’Connor’s goal, the entire Mustang bench emptied, with players racing to celebrate the dramatic victory. Even after the trophy presentation, players remained ecstatic, hugging parents, friends, coaches and family members.
If the win came as a mild shock, the feeling was certainly justified. For most of the second half, things didn’t appear in Medina’s favor, as the strong winds favored Newfane. The Panthers used the wind (which complemented a steady, heavy rain) to their advantage, keeping the ball in Medina territory and firing several shots as senior goalkeeper Adam Hoot, but Hoot didn’t budge.
Hoot even exited the game for a minute after getting kicked in the jaw while contesting a loose ball early in the second half — hugging backup goalie Alex Murphy while the two switched — but Murphy made a nice save while in net, and Hoot quickly returned to full strength.
Newfane maintained the wind for the first 15-minute overtime, but the Mustang defense again held tough. Medina got the wind back for the second 15-minute sudden-death period, and O’Connor ultimately took advantage.
“Once Newfane got the wind in the second half, and the first OT, they controlled most of the play,” Luksch said. “But when we got it back for the second OT, we knew they were going to let down a bit, in terms of trying to score, because they knew how tough it was going into the wind.”
Medina opened the scoring just two minutes into the game, with James Ianni scoring on a header. Ianni jumped up to receive a long pass from O’Connor, who took a direct kick near midfield. The ball rode the wind toward the net, and Ianni made the right play at the right time.
Newfane tied it up with 3:30 left in the first half on a goal by Brett Stern, assisted by Chad Gilson. The Panthers appeared to have the edge at that point, considering the wind-related advantage they would take over after the intermission, but Medina defied the odds down the stretch.
The Panthers defeated Medina in overtime, 4-3, in the regular-season opener, and the teams played to a 1-1 tie at Veterans Park later in the season.
But Luksch knows that crazy things can happen in sectionals, and Medina came up big when it mattered most. As a result, the Mustangs emerged victorious.
“You knew this game wasn’t going to last only 80 minutes,” Luksch said. “Two evenly matched teams. Give Newfane a lot of credit; they played their hearts out.”
“I’m just so happy for Brennen. Steven (Anderson) took the first two corner kicks, and I had a gut feeling to let Brennen take this one; he’s been practicing that shot all year, and he puts that bend in the ball. It was a great shot.”
The shot that made the Mustangs champions.