Coulter's Falcons claim Class A championship

PAUL BATTSON/CONTRIBUTOR Niagara-Wheatfield senior forward Jake Vallas (16) heads a cross from teammate John Osetkowski toward Williamsville South keeper Jack Petrie during the first half of Monday's Section VI Class Boys Soccer Crossover game at Sweet Home High School. Vallas scored on a header in the second half, sparking the Falcons to a 2-0 win over the Billies. At left is Niagara-Wheatfield senior forward Andrew Ramballi (10).

AMHERST — It was only a matter of time before Niagara-Wheatfield's relentless offensive attack would break the Williamsville South defense.

And although head coach John Coulter's Falcons couldn't find the net with the winds at their backs on a cold, drizzly Monday night, they turned to two familiar faces to score two second-half goals in a 2-0 boys soccer victory over the Billies in a well-played Section VI Class A crossover title game.

The historic win — the furthest Niagara-Wheatfield has ever gone in boys soccer — sets the stage for Friday's New York State Far West Regional showdown between the Falcons (17-1-1) and the Section V Class Champions at Hilton High School (7:30 p.m.). The winner of that game heads to the New York State “Final Four Tournament.”

“I gotta thank these boys and their families for this,” a beaming coach Coulter said. “These are an amazing group of guys. The alumni love it. They've been coming out to the games and having a blast. I feel like this team is wining games for all the teams that came before them.” 

Before a large, partisan N-W crowd at neutral Sweet Home High School, the high-octane Falcons offense peppered Billies junior keeper Jack Petrie throughout the gamer's first 40 minutes, dinging shots and headers off both posts and the crossbar, but not quite finding the net.

It took one of the greatest clutch scorers in the history of Niagara-Wheatfield soccer, senior Jake Vallas, and one of Section VI's most outstanding dribblers, Ralph Wence, to punch the Falcons' ticket to the state tournament.

Vallas, who scored the game winning goal just days before in the Falcons' 2-0 Class A-2 title game win over Will East, rose the occasion for the umpteenth time this season, literally, going airborne to head in Brandon Osetkowski's textbook cross to score the game's first goal with 14:16 left in the contest.

When asked if he was looking for Vallas with his pass towards the front of the net, Osetkowski said, “Yeah I mean he's one of our stronger players in the air and I've been looking for him all season. It's great to finally get one of those in the net.”

Added coach Coulter, ”They keep trying to mark (Vallas), but he always finds a way.”

Moments later, the skilled ball-handler Wence, a player all the younger kids should watch if they want to learn how to play the game, took a great pass from freshman teammate Noah Morelli in front and drilled it home with about 250 seconds to go, as the Falcons and their enthusiastic fans began celebrating the inevitable.

Falcons' sophomore keeper Josh Morelli was tested, especially late in the game, by the Billies (16--3-1), including their 30-goal scorer, senior striker  Andy Loomis, but stood strong yet again. His effort down the stretch included a superb diving save to his right and he then saved his best for last with a spectacular tip save on a high blast destined for the upper part of the net.

“With our defense — we have a tough D — Josh doesn't face a whole lot of shots, so a lot of teams don't know a lot about him back there, but he's a brick wall,” coach Coulter said.

“Our two center backs, Joe Woroniecki and Austin Osetowski just rose to the occasion today and shut down every thing Will South brought to us and they had some good players,” he added.

Next up, on Friday night, the Falcons are set to play the winner of this afternoon's Section V Class A crossover game between Greece Athena and Pittsford Sutherland at Spencerport HS (5 p.m.).

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