Revenge wasn’t the reason Fairport and Churchville-Chili won in the Section V Class AA boys soccer semifinals on Tuesday night, but it certainly didn’t hurt to have it on their side.
Top-seeded Fairport beat No. 4 Webster Schroeder, 4-0, in the first matchup at East Irondequoit Eastridge High School, then No. 2 Churchville-Chili won in dramatic fashion. The Saints scored twice in the final 5½ minutes despite playing a man down and beat three-time defending champion Spencerport, 2-0. The Rangers (13-5-1) ousted C-C (17-1-1) from last year’s semifinals, 3-2 in overtime.
“It was time to get back at them for what they did to us on this field last year,” said C-C sophomore playmaker Lukas Fernandes, who assisted on Tashko Strembenis’ go-ahead goal with 5:20 remaining, then converted a 24-yard free kick that deflected off a two-man wall with 2:46 to go.
Fairport (16-0-2), which is unbeaten in the postseason for the first time, and Churchville-Chili play for the title 7 p.m. Friday at Eastridge. The Red Raiders haven’t won a crown since 2009, the Saints since 1990. “We’ve been putting the work in for the past few years and through that (we) just know that this is our year,” said Fairport midfielder Hunter Critchlow.
“We’re looking forward to playing them,” Strembenis said of the Raiders, who have outscored opponents 62-5. “They’re a great team.”
Fairport lost to Schroeder (12-6-1) in last year’s Class AAA final. The Warriors had won three straight “AAA” crowns before that class was discontinued this fall.
“They have fantastic talent and great leadership,” Schroeder coach Dave Urbanski said of the Raiders, who returned about the same number of players that the Warriors graduated (17 seniors). “You’ve got guys like Hunter Critchlow and Matt Bischoff. Those guys, you can tell as soon as they get on the field what their game’s about. They’re just quality all the way around.”
Churchville-Chili’s attacking quality didn’t produce until desperation time. A hard challenge that resulted in a red card (ejection) to senior Sam Huzyk and possible concussion to Spencerport’s David DeBellis with 21:39 remaining put the Rangers up a man. Although Spencerport lost 2-0 and 3-0 to C-C during the regular season, it had the more dangerous of the few good scoring chances through 70 minutes.
“We’ve played a bend-don’t-break defense all year,” C-C coach John Mahoney said. “We limit chances to what we want to give teams, which is shots from distance and my keeper is 6-foot-4 (Kyle McCane), so we can handle (those).”
Fernandes (18 goals), who can be deadly from deep, banged a pair of free kicks from 35 yards and 25 yards into walls with around 7½ minutes to go. Then on a quick-strike counter he found Strembenis, who has been hot lately. He scored from 15 yards.
“We knew they were deadly on counterattacks and that’s what they got us on. They’re very fast, very skilled,” said Spencerport coach Tom Etsler, a 1982 C-C graduate who went over to the Saints afterward to wish them luck Friday.
Mahoney said his crew never lost faith. “Even down a man, the whole sideline was saying, ‘We’re going to get a goal.’ I was confident we were going to win,” he said.
Fairport is equally confident. It has been dominant all season, tying and beating Schroeder during Monroe County Division I play. The Raiders cracked the ice about 14½ minutes in. Forward Cameron Hughes (seven goals) scored on a header on a near-post run off a pass by freshman Ryan Stokes.
The Raiders KO’d Schroeder by scoring 33 seconds apart six minutes after halftime, as senior forward Alex Mangerian and Critchlow were each elusive off the dribble before scoring from just inside the box. Max DeJean added a late goal.
Coach Gianni Bussani, whose teams have won six sectional titles, praised his veteran team afterward for its typical, business-like approach. “We just have to go all out and put (chances) in the back of the net when we need to,” Critchlow said.