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Red Devils Back On Top In Class AA

Maybe the Clarence High School boys soccer team can’t really relate to the Cleveland Indians or Chicago Cubs. But after winning five straight Section VI championships from 2009-13, the two-year hiatus sure seemed like a century.

Well, the Red Devils are back on top. Clarence reclaimed the Class AA sectional title with a hard-fought 1-0 win over rival Lancaster on Saturday night at Sweet Home High School. It feels great,” Clarence coach Mike Silverstein said. “The biggest thing is, this a group that in August and even the offseason I kept saying, ‘You deserve the opportunity to play for a title.’ They got it because they deserved it.”

Not too long ago, senior classes graduated at Clarence with multiple soccer championships. That’s not sustainable with the elite competition in Class AA but the Red Devils got it back. The championship was the first for the 13-man senior class, led by All-Western New York forward Sam Sutherland.

“I’ve been waiting for this for three years. It’s just incredible,” Sutherland said. “It’s what I’ve been working for all my life as a soccer player. It’s been everything I’ve been going for. My senior year, I’m glad I got one.”

The Red Devils (15-2-1) will face Fairport or Webster Thomas in the Far West Regionals at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Sweet Home. Fairport and Webster Thomas play on Tuesday for the Section V title.

Ross Showalter’s header found its way into the net off the hands of Lancaster goalkeeper Anthony Gallo, who was otherwise stellar on the night, for the game’s only goal. His 19th tally of the season came with 20:34 left in the second half.

“It feels great,” Showalter said. “It’s an indescribable feeling. I just headed it and I thought he saved it but then I saw it go in the net and I just went nuts.”

The Legends played the game’s final 45 minutes down a man. Senior defender Tim Molik was assessed a red card for fouling Showalter from behind in the box, stopping a clear breakaway. Rules state if a player has a clear path to the goalie is brought down from behind by the last defender, a red card is automatically issued. The referee’s two options were to red-card Molik or not call a foul at all.

“It was a definitely a foul,” Silverstein said. “It a shame that with two great teams, one has to be a man down. Part of me thinks that kid has to make that play (and foul Showalter). Ross has 18 goals on the season for a reason, he can finish.”

With the red card it also meant Molik was disqualified from the game, leaving the Legends not only down a man for the rest of the game but also minus a co-captain and a huge part of the team’s defensive success this season.

“He’s a heck of kid and he never stops working,” Lancaster coach Chris Palmer said. “I know it absolutely broke his heart and I think everyone’s heartbroken for him, Clarence included. But the referee made the decision and we stick by the decision.”

It initially worked out for the Legends. With Clarence penalty kick standout Nick Lunetta having been recently subbed out, Sutherland took the kick. He tried to go low to Gallo’s left but the goalie dove and smothered it.

“If it wasn’t for his save on the penalty kick, we’re probably out of the game earlier,” Palmer said after his team finished 13-4-2. “He took a situation that could have flipped the game on its head right away and sniffed it out.”

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