It was anticipated that Saturday’s Section VI Class A1 championship game between the Williamsville East Flames and the Grand Island Vikings would live up to its billing as a marquee matchup.
It was that and more. So much so that both teams ended up finishing the game tied at zero, and both teams were crowned champions.
“It’s a little bittersweet, and I guess it’s the best of a bad situation,” Vikings coach Frank Butcher said. “We wanted to come out with a win, of course, and we worked our tails off today. I can’t say enough about our guys’ effort today. You kind of want someone to be rewarded because I don’t know if either team deserved a better shot tonight.”
On the flip side, Flames coach Tony Schiappa thought his team had an excellent season but wore down a bit by the end.
“When you win a league or section championship and you end the season undefeated, I don’t know if there’s been a AA or A team that’s gone undefeated,” Schiappa said. “We’re proud of that, although tying is probably unlike anything these kids or I have ever experienced. I thought we had the better of the chances, particularly in regulation. But I think both teams ran out of legs in overtime.”
The game was reminiscent of a heavyweight boxing match in many ways. The contest was a back-and-forth affair, and neither Williamsville East (14-0-2) nor Grand Island (11-3-2) were willing to give an inch.
“Not many teams get to finish a sports season with their last game not being a loss,” Vikings senior goalkeeper Sam Carpenter said. “Every one of those guys gave everything they had, and I don’t think you can point to anyone and say, ‘If they gave more effort we could have won.’ Everyone absolutely left it all out there.”
“To the bystanders it probably wasn’t too exciting or pretty. But as a soccer coach, those are the games you love to coach in,” Schiappa said. “Neither of us wanted to give an inch defensively, and neither gave up many chances.”
The two best chances to score were from the Flames’ Luca Buscaglia, who had a pair of penalty kick opportunities that were stopped by Carpenter in regulation. Josh Hunt of Grand Island also had a penalty kick that was denied by Flames goalkeeper Jack Root.
“Luca’s our best player, and win lose or draw, we’re going to do it on our best player’s foot,” Schiappa said. “He’ll rebound from that and he’s as good as any player in Western New York. Luca’s a joy to coach and I embrace coaching him each and every day. He played a great game regardless.”
“I think those saves kind of energized our guys and gave them momentum to finish the game out strong,” Carpenter, who had 14 saves, said. “There’s no better feeling than to stop a penalty kick like that, especially two in one game and against the same guy.”
Both squads battled until the final horn blew after the second overtime, in which the game was still knotted up at 0-0. Due to no state tournament this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, no penalty kicks occurred to decide an outright winner, and a tie was declared.
The lack of goals, however, were not due to a lack of trying, according to those on the playing field.
“I think our team would have rather known who the better team was in penalty kicks, but we’ll take it,” Root said. “We fought hard for those 110 minutes, and I’m proud of the boys. Nobody beat us this year, and that’s a great accomplishment.”
“While we’d rather have the title to ourselves, it’s a fitting and strange end to a strange season during strange times,” Carpenter said. “I’d still rather share a trophy instead of having no trophy at all.”