Bombers’ magic runs out
MIDDLETOWN — A historic run for the Lake Placid boys soccer team ended one game short of a trip to the state Class C championship match, as the Byron-Bergen/Elba Bees blanked the Blue Bombers 4-0 Saturday in semifinal action at Middletown High School’s Faller Field.
The Blue Bombers’ hopes of playing for the title were still alive when the teams entered halftime in a scoreless deadlock, but their chance to advance ended quickly after intermission as the Section V champion Bees found the back of the net four times to halt a Lake Placid postseason march that was nothing short of amazing.
Sophomore Kyle Foeller put Byron-Bergen on the board 9:11 into the second half on what turned out to be the game-winning goal. The Bees then poured it on by scoring three more times in less than 20 minutes.
Adam Swapceinski netted the next two goals to give the Bees a commanding 3-0 edge and Wade Thompson rounded out the scoring with about 10 minutes remaining when he weaved through a normally stalwart Blue Bombers defense and blasted a shot past goalkeeper Jacob Novik.
In their last four playoff games leading up to Saturday, the Blue Bombers surrendered just a single goal in regulation, but they had a tough time defending against a Byron-Bergen attack that was equally dangerous from the middle of the field and the wings.
The Bees entered the match with a 19-1-1 record and as the top-ranked Class C team in New York, and when the Blue Bombers needed to come up with their top performance of the season, it never materialized during their first appearance ever at the state final four.
“We didn’t play to the best of our ability,” Lake Placid head coach Stuart Hemsley said. “I think age finally caught up with us. There were a lot of young heads in there, and our opponent had a lot of good players. We didn’t create much, we gave the ball away way too much and paid every time we did give it away. We conceded more goals in that second half than we did in our last seven games.”
The Blue Bombers did have a great opportunity to jump in front early when they were awarded a direct kick from just outside the penalty box less than two minutes into the match, but senior Jaso Hannula’s shot sailed high over the crossbar. And that missed chance turned out to be the only real threat Lake Placid was able to generate the rest of the way.
Lake Placid was able to hold off several charges by the Bees during the opening half but eventually the Blue Bombers couldn’t contain a big, talented group of forwards and midfielders who continued attacking.
“They were bigger, they were quicker,” said Hannula, who was named a first-team all-star defender among New York state small schools. “They knew from the start what their plan was. We went in as the underdog again just like we have during this playoff run. We played our best I feel, but we couldn’t get it done this time.”
Hemsley, however, knew his team has turned in better performances during a campaign that saw the Blue Bombers win their sixth straight Section VII title and then make it through the opening round of the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
“I thought we could make them run around for the ball and we spent most of the afternoon running around chasing the ball, and that wasn’t good,” Hemsley said. “If we played the best we could, it would have been a good game. Nil to nil at halftime, we were OK right there. That was a victory, not a loss, but our passing game wasn’t there today, and that was disappointing because I know our kids can pass the ball.
“Their front six played well,” Hemsley added. “I thought we could take advantage of their back line and test their keeper, but we were never really able to get behind them.”
“Lake Placid played a hard game, they played with all heart, and I was very, very impressed,” Bees head coach Ken Rogoyski said. “No. 5 (Hannula) especially was one of the best sweeper backs that we went against all year. He was excellent.
“We played as a team, we backed each other up, our defense was always there for each other,” Rogoyski added. “Offensively, we went all in every single time and eventually it paid off. Our goal was try and make every pass count. We stuck to our game plan, executed it and it panned out today.”
Saturday’s semifinal marked the sixth match in a row where the Bees didn’t concede a goal. Unfortunately, that stingy streak ended for Byron-Bergen in Sunday’s championship match when Section IV’s Lansing High School dashed the Bees’ state title dreams with a 2-1 triumph in overtime that gave the Bobcats their first New York Class C championship.
After ending the regular season with a 4-7 mark, the Blue Bombers went on to win five playoff matches heading into Saturday’s seminal. They finished with an overall 9-8 record, and to go along with it, an unforgettable trip to the final four.
“The boys loved it from start to finish,” Hannula said. “We’re just glad that we got here. Everyone is happy. Even though we’re crying, it’s all love.”
“It was a great season,” Hemsley said. “To get here and be able to compete, it doesn’t get any better if you are a high school soccer player. If you are here, it’s the pinnacle of your career.”