A strong memory can be a blessing or a curse.
Luckily, for Mike Silverstein, the good moments have heavily outnumbered the bad during his tenure as the Clarence High School Boys Soccer coach.
Saturday, Silverstein added another fond moment to his memory bank winning his ninth sectional title in the Red Devils’ 2-1 win over the Lancaster Legends in the Section VI Class AA championship game at Clinton H. Small Stadium.
It’s Clarence’s third-straight sectional title and places Silverstein all-alone at fourth on Section VI’s All-time coaching sectional championships list.
“I love it,” said Silverstein about his accomplishment. “There are some great people up there. The sectional championships are different each year and each one is enjoyed. I think I can replay all of the championship games in my head because I enjoy the moment.”
Silverstein was tied with former Sweet Home coach Dick Banaszak before Saturday’s game. The coach now sits behind Amherst’s Bob McAllister (15), North Collins’ Roy Hendrix (12) and current East Aurora coach Kevin Beale (11).
“He’s the core of this team,” Taha Ahmed said of his coach. “He motivates us when we’re down. He shows us the positives instead of the negatives; that’s what motivates us to play for him every day.”
Clarence will play the Section V champion in the Far West Regionals on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Sweet Home High School.
Recapping the Game
The wet conditions proved to be a factor early playing a large part in the game’s first score. The Legends’ goalie was trying to clear, but the ball slipped out of his hands and right to the feet of Ahmed who tapped it in for the easy goal as Clarence took the lead with 12:27 left in the first half.
The Red Devils took advantage of a corner with under five minutes to go in the half. Ross Showalter’s corner deflected off a defender to a well-positioned Jacob Gajewski who knocked it home for his first-ever varsity goal, giving his team a two-goal lead.
Lancaster responded soon after as Jake Klimczak scored off a perfect heel pass from Owen Adamec cutting the deficit to one score at the half.
Even with all the momentum leaning toward the Legends to start the second half, the Clarence defense stood strong for the final 40 minutes, allowing very little offense to be generated by their opponent.
“We talk about our mental toughness all the time,” Silverstein said. “You have to be mentally strong. We have two losses this year and in both of those losses we got mentally beat. So, we’ve been talking about that a lot lately. We knew this game wasn’t going to come easy.”
Lancaster ends its 2018 campaign with a record of 12-5-1.
“I feel like at the beginning of the year it took us a while to get our legs underneath us,” Lancaster coach Chris Palmer said. “The last three or four weeks it’s really come together well. There’s been a noticeable shift in how they approach games and practice.”
The Red Devils have failed to make it beyond the Far West Regional game in each of their last two appearances.
“This is one of the best teams we’ve had in a while,” Ahmed said. “We’re all so bonded. If we keep working hard I think we can make it through.”
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