AMHERST — Niagara-Wheatfield boys soccer head coach John Coulter and his leading scorer, senior striker Jake Vallas, both came through with their predictions on Wednesday night in the Falcons’ 2-0 Section VI Class A-1 championship victory over Williamsville East — the first ever for Niagara County’s Sanborn large school.
Coulter and the Falcons (16-1-1), stung by their Niagara Frontier League title game defeat to Lewiston-Porter a couple of weeks back, said they would use that loss — their only defeat in 2019 — as a catalyst to winning a sectional championship, and they did just that.
Vallas, who said after his first game of the year at Lockport that his goal was to score 20-plus goals this season, netted his 20th and 21st of the season — both in the second half — as the Falcons advance to take on Williamsville South at 7:30 p.m. this Monday, back at Sweet Home, for the overall Class A title.
“And we’re not done yet,” Coulter said. “We knew Will East would be a tough opponent. We did our research and knew what we were up against and they gave us a heck of a game. We broke it open there with a quick goal and managed to get up another one. Jake just knows how to rise to the occasion. When the pressure’s on, we know he’s going to put the game on his shoulders.”
With the game scoreless at the half, and following an emotional halftime pep talk from Coulter, the Falcons came out swinging in the second half. Vallas, the Falcons’ leading score was in the perfect spot to knock in a rebound off a shot by teammate senior Joe Timbello and the Falcons led 1-0 with 21:01 left in the game.
Moments later, Niagara-Wheatfield’s Joe Woroniecki booted a textbook free kick towards the far post. Vallas — who else — was there to head it in and the Falcons’ defense did the rest.
“I was just getting a lot of hype from the alumni on the bench. They wanted it as much as I did. I just served it in and Vallas, my main man, always gets his head on it,” Woronicki said of the clinching goal.
“Losing the NFL championship game for a second year in a row hurt. I keep the newspaper clipping loss in my bag and I read it before every game, just to remember that loss.”
Keeper Josh Morelli and the Falcons defense, led by N-W Player of the Game senior defender Austin Osetkowski, played one of their biggest games of the year as well.
“Will East scored a lot of balls in the air this year and we knew that was going to be one of the keys to shutting down their offense,” Coulter said. “Josh coming out on those corner kicks, I watched him swat away probably a dozen corner kicks today. We worked hard on it at practice and he just came out hard.”
Morelli said communication was the key to a well played game by the Falcons’ defense.
“It’s very important for the defense to communicate,” Morelli said. “If somebody’s not marked, I have to say something to the defense and if he’s not marked the defense can break down easily from just one guy.”
Next up, Niagara-Wheatfield takes on A-2 champion Williamsville South at 7:30 p.m. Monday, back at Sweet Home, for the overall Section VI Class A title.
Follow veteran local sports reporter John D’Onofrio on Twitter at @JohnD’Onofrio7.