Class C final preview
No. 1 North Salem (12-5) vs. No. 3 Haldane (8-6-2)
When: Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Where: Lakeland HS
Key players: NS — Michael Bossi, So., MF; Michael Dutt, Sr., MF; Jake Leicht, Sr., D; John Martabano, Sr., MF; Mike Selzer, Sr., F. Hal— Blaine Fitzgerald, Sr., GK; Mike Harmancin, Sr., D; Andre van Dommele, Jr., MF; Justin Villa, Jr., MF; Seth Warren, Sr., F.
Previous meeting(s): Haldane swept two games with 2-0 and 1-0 wins
Outlook: The Blue Devils are turning into a great story. This is a team that only won a couple of games last season, but first-year coach Steve Schweikhart has completely turned things around. Not only did Haldane show drastic improvements in the regular season to finish above .500, but it’s coming off of one of the biggest upsets of year. I’ll admit, I didn’t give the Blue Devils much of a chance against Solomon Schechter in the semis. They were blown out by the Lions in the regular season, 5-0, and Schechter was the runner-up in the state last year. I fully expected that team to be defending its title on Saturday, but Haldane had different plans. With a 2-1 upset, the Blue Devils will now clash with the top-seeded Tigers. When North Salem first dropped down to Class C last season, I thought it was the team to beat. In fact, I picked the Tigers to win the section in 2015. I was wrong — thart seems to happen a lot, huh? — as they were bounced by Hamilton in the semis. This year, with most of its starters back, North Salem is playing more like we thought it would. As far as Class C teams go, coach Ron Hendrie’s squad has been the most consistent in ’16. But — and this is a big but — the Tigers lost both games that they played against league rival Haldane. Both teams have some capable offensive weapons, with the Blue Devils led by Warren and his nine goals (he had the winner in the 77th minute against Schechter in the semis) and North Salem led by the trio of Michaels — Bossi, Dutt and Selzer. One area where Haldane might have a slight edge, though, is in goal. Fitzgerald stands at 6-foot-7 and made 14 saves to make the upset of Schechter possible. If he can repeat that performance, I think the Blue Devils can make it a three-game sweep for the season.
Coach speak: “We just have this knack of hanging around and hanging around and then taking advantage of our opportunities. We wanted to give them (Schechter) a better battle and prove we belong in the mix in Class C. I expected our kids to give it everything they had, and they most certainly did. I couldn’t be more proud of this team.” — Haldane coach Steve Schweikhart
Prediction: Haldane 2, North Salem 1