COLONIE — Jaylin Sykes’ breakaway speed and quick-strike scoring ability drew plenty of attention from Christian Brothers Academy defenders all evening and ultimately was the difference in Shenendehowa’s sectional title.
The 6-foot, 160-pound sophomore forward connected on his team’s first goal and then set up the game-winning score by senior Ethan Behan with 11:20 remaining to lift the Plainsmen to a 2-1 victory over CBA in the Section II Class AA championship game at Colonie Monday night. The third-seeded 14-3-1 Plainsmen advance to regional play on Saturday. CBA, the fourth seed, finishes at 15-4-1.
The game-winner was set up by Sykes, who was surrounded by several CBA defenders in the box.
“I heard Ethan yell to me. He was right next to me,” Sykes said. “He said, ‘Pass it to me,’ and I did.”
Behan deposited the feed past CBA sophomore keeper Dan Kelly for the deciding goal.
“It’s always been a dream of mine, to win the Section II title,” Behan said. “The dream definitely became a reality. I’ve been thinking of this since I first came on the Shen campus.”
Although CBA dominated much of the second half, Shenendehowa was in control for the first 40 minutes. The Plainsmen outshot the Brothers 8-4, and CBA failed to test Shen goalie Greg Monroe, who didn’t have to make an official save.
The Plainsmen peppered the CBA net with threatening shots by Nick Kokkinides and Noah Faro before Sykes nearly scored on a header in the box. Sykes finally broke the scoreless tie when he broke free and tracked down Nick
Evans’ long pass just past midfield. As Kelly came out to cut off the angle, Sykes kicked the ball into the far corner of the net with 19:46 left in the half.
CBA, however, knotted the score late in the half, when Shen’s defense broke down, allowing Rafael-Enrique Holguin to slip a pass to junior Brady Van Epps. The tall striker, ironically from Clifton Park, chipped the ball over Monroe’s head with just 2:14 remaining until intermission.
The Brothers kept the ball in the Plainsmen’s end for much of the second half, but it didn’t matter.
“Oh my God. I’ve never been so tired in my life,” Sykes said. “Last year, we didn’t get the title. This year, we made sure we didn’t share the title with CBA. I’m so excited. Coach was talking to me all the time on the sideline. I just kept running and pushing it out for the last couple of minutes.”
“If we just play our game, we can win it all,” Behan added.
Shenendehowa head coach Jonathan Bain agreed that having a weapon like Sykes was a big edge for his Plainsmen against a quality team like CBA.
“He’s one of those players who seems to glide down the field. He’s got breakaway speed you can’t replace,” Bain said. “Getting ahead early was key for us. CBA is a great team. We had to work our rear ends off to get this one tonight.”
In the opening game of the doubleheader at Colonie, the Class CC-C playoff, Maple Hill scored an own goal midway through the second half to defeat Greenville 1-0.