PLATTSBURGH — A beautiful cross led to a beautiful goal Friday.
With 17:36 remaining in the second half, Zashon Abrams headed in a ball Nikalas Hamel sent into the box, which put Saranac (12-3-3) ahead and sent the Chiefs to a 1-0 victory against Plattsburgh High (11-6-2) in the Section VII Class B boys soccer title match at Plattsburgh State.
The victory marked Saranac's second sectional title in the past three years, and Chiefs coach Calvin Hamel said it's a special one.
"We were not supposed to be here," Calvin Hamel said. "We are very young. We have three seniors. These guys are such a great group of kids. I don't know how to explain it.
"All year we were the underdog. Nobody believed in us, and everyone counted us out. We believed in ourselves, and that's all that matters."
Up until Abrams' tally, the Hornets had been pressing for a goal and had the better of play, especially in the second half.
When Abrams found the back of the net, that narrative changed.
"I saw the goalie move to the right as the ball was coming toward me, so I directed that header to the left," Abrams said. "When I saw it go in, I just thought to myself, 'Finally!'"
Saranac keeper Branden Ashley notched an eight-save shutout, and the clean sheet did not come without a lot of pressure.
Just over 10 minutes into the first half, Ryan Kavanaugh sizzled a shot just past the post to Ashley's left that could have given Plattsburgh a 1-0 advantage.
Cody Garrow had an equally dangerous chance with 26:20 to go in the game, as a low shot off his foot trickled just wide of the right post.
The Hornets outshot the Chiefs, 9-6.
"We knew this was going to be a tough battle," Calvin Hamel said.
"Plattsburgh High played a great game. They have a great group of players and a great coach in Chris LaRose. There's a lot of talent on that team. I am proud of my guys for not giving up."
Saranac showed grit and a mental toughness throughout, bouncing back early after an offside call negated a goal with 8:42 elapsed in the opening half.
The Chiefs advanced to play at a Section II representative in a NYSPHSAA sub-regional next week.
"We come to practice every day focused," Nikalas Hamel said. "We work hard and love playing hard. We win as a team and lose as a team.
"We just have to play hard in the future. Our team made it to states two years ago, and they played hard but just could not get it done.
"Hopefully, this year, we can give teams a run for their money."
Saranac 1, Plattsburgh High 0
PHS 0 0 — 0
Saranac 0 1 — 1
Second half- 1, SCS, Abrams (Hamel), 17:36.
Shots- Plattsburgh High 9, Saranac 6.
Saves- Tuller, PHS, 2. Ashley, SCS, 8.
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