COLONIE, N.Y. – It’s not how you start the race, it’s how you finish it.
The Shenendehowa boys soccer team finally reached its goal, chasing the Section II Class AA title, earning it with a 1-0 over Bethlehem Central in overtime by their senior leaders.
After no official score in regulation, Plainsmen senior captain Reggie Durden brought the ball up through the Eagles defense and passed the ball to a sailing senior captain Jaylin Sykes who sent the ball from the right side into the back of the net for the title-winning tally.
“We have been talking about this since day one and when I scored the goal I didn't even realize what happened, I had a moment to realize what just happened in the game and then I got excited, realized what happened and I started to celebrating,” Jaylin Sykes said. “This is something you dream about, go to sleep at night and you just have dreams like this over and over again and then finally having it come true is the best feeling in the world.”
The Plainsmen had a short-lived, unofficial lead after junior Brandon Barrett sent the ball on frame from 40-yards out in the first half, but the apparent score was waived off due to a hand ball infraction.
Shenendehowa never let up, but could not break through in the first 80 minutes of play.
“I thought against a Bethlehem team I know it's not going to be easy to score so when we get a good chance and we don't I think to myself "I'm not sure if we are going to get another one, maybe even two,” Shenendehowa coach Jon Bain said. “With a little bit of luck here and there you can maybe break one in.”
That pressure was felt on the pitch as well as on the sidelines.
“First half I thought we were going to get a goal right in the beginning. I thought we were going to get them on their heels, score one or two in the beginning of the game but it wasn't happening,” Sykes said. “It was a little bit unlucky.
“Once the game got going on it got more and more evenly matched, I'm just happy to get that last goal in.”
That last goal was developed just one day earlier.
“It was something that we actually trained last night believe it or not,” Bain said. “My assistant said to me at the end, you know, we actually worked on that last night and I know that Reggie (Durden) and Jaylin (Sykes) were both a little banged up and cramps had set in and just a little bit of extra effort gave us a victory in the end.”
There was a confidence among the Shenendehowa captains, Sykes, Durden and Rhys Hourmont that this group could bring a title back to Clifton Park.
“I've seen this since it started, I was telling the boys we have a group text called 'Chip Chasers' and from day one it's been that title,” Reggie Durden said. “This is what we've been looking for since day one back in August.”
He remembers looking up to his previous captains as they made a playoff run.
“Two years ago I was the younger (player), so it's cool to lead these guys and leave them off on a good note,” Durden said. “We do everything together, we dress together, we eat together, we talk together, this is more than a team, this is a family.”
Bain wasn’t as confident as his captains, but he saw the potential build in October.
“Right about the Niskayuna game, they came out and they played really, really well and Niskayuna was such a good team and we were playing well,” Bain said. “Then we played Saratoga and we were down late and we came back to tie it and then won it and I said 'This team has a little bit of something about them where they don't just quite give in.'
“Today it was just that, it could have gone either way, it could have gone to penalty kicks and we were lucky enough to get one in the end.”
On Monday and during the playoff run it was both skill and maturity that won out in the end.
“One of the differences from the beginning to the end has to be our back line of Toba (Akinyemi), Brandon (Barrett), Jacob (Miller) and Owen (Brignati) have been so, so good,” Bain said. “Even when we had some reserves go in due to some injuries they played outstanding as well, that ability to keep a shutout has been just great. Hopefully you don't stop Jaylin or Reggie or Darien (Espinal) for a whole game.”
The work is not done as the Plainsmen will face Section III (Syracuse-area) champion Baker 3:30 p.m. again at Colonie High School.