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soccer Team Champs

What does it say about a program when getting to the states is step 1? That is now the expectation when any season begins for the Lansing Boys Varsity Soccer Program and has been ever since the 2004 squad, the first ones to do it. After beating Sauquoit Valley last weekend, the Bobcats punched their tickets for a return trip hoping the outcome would be better than last year's 1-0 loss in the semis to World of Inquiry.

But first, let's recap how they got there. The Bobcats first won the IAC Championship a month ago versus Elmira Notre Dame 1-0 on a nice night at TC3. Then postseason began the following weekend as the Bobcats took care of Odessa Montour 7-0 at Ithaca College. The next weekend almost stopped Lansing's opportunity to return to Middletown when they faced Greene on Greene's turf. The Bobcats went down early and it wasn't until two goals off of set pieces that put Lansing back ahead and on to regionals with a 2-1 victory. There they faced Sauquoit Valley at Herkimer CC. While the shot differential substantially favored Lansing, the result was only a 1-0 win, but they gladly took it to Middletown, a trip they had strived to make all year long.

The boys arrived Friday for the opening ceremonies, but their first game wasn't till 4pm on Saturday on the turf field. Because of the late game time, the boys got to watch other semifinals. After watching Ithaca lose their game in the first minutes of overtime, Lansing vowed that that would not happen to them. In Class C, Byron-Bergen/Elba (Section V) beat Lake Placid 4-0 to advance to the final.

Lansing's semifinal opponent was the Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers from Section XI down in Long Island near Sag Harbor. In other games Coach Parkes would've had one of his assistants scout them, but that wasn't possible, so he had to rely on his team to go out and play. And that is exactly what the boys did.

soccer Nick Lansing Josh StatesNick Parkes, Josh Zajac

They opened the game early with a corner kick. As Josh Zajac and Nick Parkes have done many times successfully this year, Zajac played it in short to Parkes. Parkes took a touch to the corner of the 18, and let it rip with his left. There was nothing the keeper could do but watch as the ball flew into the upper-left corner of the net; 1-0.

The game plan as always was to out possess the other team and score. Lansing did just that and their defense didn't give the Whalers a decent chance to equalize all game. With minutes to go striker Taylor Overton cleaned up a corner that the Whalers tried to clear, with his thigh to ice the game 2-0. The Bobcats celebrated the victory but knew that they had completed only half of what they set out to do.

The boys returned to their hotel, got some sleep, and woke up to a gorgeous sunny Sunday morning. The parents of the players spent the early morning preparing breakfast for the kids in their hotel rooms and by 9:30am, the boys were back on the bus to play the championship game on the grass field at 10:30am. The Bobcats warmed up one last time like usual and after the announcement of names and records, play got underway.

The Byron-Bergen/Elba Bees got the kickoff and looked dangerous early. Lansing defended, but it wasn't without incident. Bees midfielder Kyle Chambry got the ball in the middle, beat a couple of Bobcat defenders and hit a shot off the post and out for a goal kick. The pressure continued a minute later as a corner kick was headed wide by the Bees.

About six minutes into the game a ball was kicked over the head of Bobcat defender Darius Desnoes. Byron-Bergen's right midfielder tracked the ball down, beat Lansing's Nic Whittaker, and served it across. B-B/E's Kyle Foeller connected on the other end of it with his head, putting it off the back post and in past a diving Jack Yahn. And all of a sudden Byron-Bergen were up 1-0.

soccer Langston Hopkins 3Langston Hopkins Photo by Peter Parkes

This was nothing new for Lansing as they had been down before, early, to Greene, and fought back. And just like that, five minutes later Lansing responded on a corner kick. Taken by Nick Parkes, he crossed the ball in deep. The keeper, Brandon Kropf, came out and punched it out the other way, only for his punch to be headed right back over him by Langston Hopkins to draw the score even at 1-1.

For the rest of regulation Lansing maintained possession but could not find the back of the net. Hopkins, tried as he might, took on his defender to try and get around the corner only to be stuffed or have his crosses blocked. Lansing Miller too had little success getting crosses off from the other side as he took over for an injured Josh Zajac. It wasn't until the final seconds of the game that Lansing had its greatest chance of all.

With four seconds remaining, Mason Edwards drew a foul about 20 yards out in the middle of the field. Since the time ran off on the scoreboard, the referee kept it on his watch. Parkes was the place kicker and hit a bullet over the wall. Kropf made the initial save, but gave up a rebound to a crashing James Blair. Blair's shot careened off the crossbar to Hopkins, who scored on the second rebound. However, the referee waived off the goal because time had run out. Onto a maximum of two fifteen-minute sudden-death overtime periods the boys went.

In the first period of overtime, Lansing had a great chance. Following a ball getting sent back to John Rogers, he sliced and diced his way by two defenders and then passed the ball out wide to Miller. Miller hit a cross to the back post at the top of the 6 where Parkes had a step on his man. Parkes headed it towards goal only for it to go right into the keeper's lap. The first overtime came and went with neither team creating much after that.

Before the final fifteen minutes began, Coach Parkes brought his team together one last time. He reminded them that they had been the better team all game long and had no desires to share the championship with Byron-Bergen/Elba. He told them to go out and take it.

At this point in the game everyone was gassed. Defenders had defended. Midfielders had covered the entire field multiple times, and strikers had made run after run. As the second half of overtime began it looked as if this game might end in a draw. Then the magic happened…

On a harmless ball from Jason Littlefair to Parkes, Parkes saw that he had space ahead of him if he beat the first defender. With one last acceleration of speed, he turned the corner on the defender and with no one challenging him, dribbled towards goal. The Bees defense was late in covering the other side and Kropf had no chance once Parkes entered the 18. Parkes slid as he kicked the ball and tucked it away side-netting for the game winner.

Pandemonium broke loose as the Bobcat faithful erupted and the boys and coaches dog-piled on top of Parkes. Lansing had just won its first NYS Class C Boys Soccer Championship in seven tries, this being the fourth finals appearance. Parkes, of course, was named MVP for his late game heroics and game winner the prior afternoon.

The ride was certainly emotional and having come one year after the death of Head Coach Adam Heck, it was nice to finally be able to celebrate. "I have no more words" said Assistant Coach Dave Schlesinger after walking off the field. Dave, who coached with Adam for 12 years and was part of the first team that made it to states, was very emotional giving Nick Parkes a big hug after the pile cleared.

Assistant Coach Brian Streb, too, was ecstatic after going to states with the girls' soccer program four years earlier and losing to Haldane 1-0 in the final.

On the trip home the boys got a police escort and when they arrived back at the school, the town came out to celebrate. Hundreds of people lined up cheering as the boys departed the bus with medals around their necks, smiles on their faces, and a trophy held high.

The Lansing Soccer Program has been strong for the past two decades and looks to remain that way. What's next is to defend their state title and with the strength of Lansing's JV and Modified programs, it looks like a repeat is very possible. Lansing will graduate 11 seniors, but there will be others to take their place and try for their own championship. However, this group will always be remembered as the group that won it all first.

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