TROY — Freshman Devin Renaud was called up to the varsity at the start of the Section II Class B tournament, but he wasn’t in over his head.
Neither were the Schalmont Sabres on Monday, even if a 3-0 deficit in the championship game to Ichabod Crane was cause to put their heads down.
Instead, Renaud flicked in a header with 1:19 left in regulation to tie it, and Hamza Noor, who had been exhorting the crowd to get fired up with 25 minutes left and the Sabres still down 3-1, finished a beautiful cross from Ryan Edwards in the eighth minute of sudden-victory overtime for a 4-3 victory at La Salle High School.
The Sabres (17-1-2) will play Canton in the state tournament at 4 p.m. Thursday at Potsdam High School..
Schalmont needed three goals in the final 25 minutes of regulation to force overtime, got them, then rode that green wave of momentum into overtime.
Because Noor’s game-winner struck the underside of the cross bar and bounced down close to the goalline, it took a few seconds of conference between the officials to verify that it was a good goal, after which the Sabres celebrated again, this time for good.
“I don’t even have words to explain what just happened,” Schalmont senior defender Jared Smith said. “That was, by far, the craziest game I’ve ever played in. This is something we’ve been playing for our whole life. Most of us have been together, probably, since U8, and to win it like that, I just don’t have any words for it. Just unbelievable.”
“Let’s just believe,” Noor said. “I just had to keep believing. I kept repeating that to myself and tried to get the crowd to say it, too. I was telling everyone, ‘We’re not done yet.’ Coach Vito [Urbano] said, ‘I want to drag you off the field.’
“I’ve never been more proud, because you can say and try to fire these guys up, and then to see it happen before your very eyes is incredible,” Urbano said.
Schalmont defeated Ichabod Crane (16-4) twice during the regular season, but has been the Sabres’ nemesis in sectional play for years.
The Riders defeated Schalmont in the final last season and semifinals in 2016, and Monday’s game marked the fifth time in six years the teams have met in sectionals.
Urbano believes Schalmont hasn’t beaten Ichabod Crane in the postseason since 2001, when he was a sophomore on the team.
“For the kids, it’s extra sweet to do it against this team, because it’s been in their minds the whole team, that this team has something over us and we just can’t get by that team,” Urbano said.
“Nothing makes it better than that,” Smith said. “Beating them in the final in my senior year, I couldn’t ask for anything more than that. I love it.”
Ichabod Crane led 1-0 at halftime on a one-touch scoring strike from Giovanni Gomez on a through ball by Antthony Carlucci.
The Riders could have been up 2-0, but Logan Groat’s header off a free kick was disallowed because of a foul.
Gomez got back to work in the second half, making it 2-0 in the 46th minute after a steal by Alan Bravo, then putting the Riders ahead 3-0 on a penalty kick in the 52nd minute.
“We kept our heads up and kept going, but it’s still hard not to think maybe we don’t get out of this,” Renaud said.
“When they scored the two goals, in my mind, I thought we were done,” Smith said.
“I know my team, I know what we’re capable of, and looking at that scoreboard, I knew that was not my team,” Urbano said. “I was just hoping we had enough time to show everyone what we could do and mount the comeback.
“To tell you the truth, they were lucky we didn’t win it before overtime. That’s how intense these guys were playing the last 25 minutes or so. Totally diffferent team.”
The turnaround started with Renaud’s first varsity goal ever, off a rebound in the box with 24:20 on the clock. It might’ve been a shutout-averting afterthought, but Edwards scored just 1:21 later to cut it to 3-2, and suddenly it was anybody’s ballgame again.
Edwards set up Renaud’s flick header to make it 3-3 with just 1:19 left in regulation.
“I saw a ball coming to me and knew that if I didn’t jump and get to that, it would go over my head,” Renaud said. “I knew we had a minute and a half left, so just jump, get your head toward the goal, and it goes where it goes.
“It was a little nerve-racking to come on the field with seniors and kids who are older than me and a bit stronger, but you’ve got to play like it’s you’re last game.”
Schalmont didn’t back off in overtime.
On the contrary, they kept surging toward the net, putting pressure on goalie Spencer Bates.
Edwards polished off his sensational game — he scored the second goal and assisted on the tying and game-winning goals — by lofting a left-footed cross toward the far post, and Noor did the rest.
“I saw the through ball go from our defender to our striker, Ryan Edwards, and he had more space,” Noor said. “I just snuck in behind the defender. I knew he would be able to put a good ball in. He’s an excellent player, so I trusted him, and I got lucky to be there.”
“They never make it easy,” Urbano said. “That’s supposed to be fun and exciting, but not for me. Now it is, but the time leading up to it is not fun for me.”
“We’re down one-nil at halftime on an unlucky goal, a bad giveaway, but we knew that if we kept working, we’d get something from the game,” Smith said. “But we kept working, kept working hard and … we scored three goals! I can’t even explain it.”
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.
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Categories: High School Sports, Sports