'Nobody takes this from us'

John D'Onofrio

Yes, it's already that “stuff of legends” — something so amazing or unbelievable that is was something one would usually only read about in novels or see in movies.

It's a corny, overused phrase, many times in the sports community, but it's the phrase that fits a brief, halftime speech by a high school soccer coach that began with a whisper and ended in a thunderous crescendo of roars by two dozen young men.

John Coulter's riveting, unforgettable, emotional plea to his Niagara-Wheatfield boys soccer players at halftime of the Section VI Class A-1 Championship this week in Sweet Home was inspirational and unforgettable.

And thanks to technology and accessibility granted by Section VI and the Falcons, I was able to capture the latter part of his pep talk on my cell phone and posted it to Twitter (go to @JohnD'Onofrio7), not thinking much about what people would think.

The response has been amazing.

Niagara-Wheatfield was tied at intermission, 0-0, with a tough Williamsville East team. Neither squad was dominating the other, although if I had to give an edge to the one team with the better scoring opportunities throughout the first half, that was clearly the Flames.

If not for sophomore keeper Josh Morelli and a staunch Falcons defense led by N-W Player of the Game senior Austin Osetkowski, Will East could easily have been in the lead.

It was a do-or-die moment for the Falcons, a team that had never yet won a sectional boys soccer championship. On top of that, the Falcons had been on the losing end of two straight Niagara Frontier League title games, losing less than two weeks earlier in a 1-0 heart-breaker.

Falcons players, including senior Joe Woroniecki, said he started carrying newspaper clippings about that defeat with him for motivation.


The temperature was dropping and the skies were darkening. Everything was on the line and the Falcons were clearly looking for a spark.

Coulter lit an Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25.

“This doesn't end tonight,” Coulter began calmly to his players, huddled together on the sidelines.

“Not tonight. Not tonight.”

“Just remember,” Coulter continued, “Believe.”

“Believe. Believe. It's gonna happen, alright.”

“Believe in yourselves, believe in each other and use each other.

“I love you guys. Let's go,” Coulter continued, looking now towards the opposing bench.

“Not tonight. Nobody takes this from us.

Slightly louder, “Nobody takes this from us.”


Turning to his players, Coulter concludes with, “WHO ARE WE?!”

Players shouting, “FALCONS!”

If you didn't see a more motivated Falcons team at the beginning of the second half — a team that woke from its slumber with two spectacular Jake Vallas goals in a 2-0 A-1 title game victory — then you weren't there.

It was like night and day with N-W dominating at both ends.

Vallas, a pure goal scorer with a Rinaldo or Messi-like pure passion for the game and big moments, rose to the occasion yet again, netting both goals with a killer instinct — like Lewiston-Porter's Joe Zachary — that very few local scholastic players possess.

Moments after the final horn, basking in the biggest boys soccer win in his school's history, Vallas thanked the man who helped guide them there.

“This win was extremely important for this team, but most important for that man,” he said, pointing to coach Coulter.

The Class A-1-champion Falcons will play A-2-champion Williamsville South at 7:30 p.m. Monday back at Sweet Home for the overall sectional Class A boys soccer championship.

Follow veteran US&J sports reporter and editor John D'Onofrio at @JohnD'Onofrio7.


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