"I don't think it's sunk in yet," Hamilton Central defender Alex Thompson said not long after the Emerald Knights' state championship win.
More than 24 hours later, I'm still not sure I believe what I saw at the National Soccer Hall of Fame Complex on Sunday. The Emerald Knights trailed state ranked No. 1 Chazy 3-0 late in the second half of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D final in Oneonta. A 3-0 lead in soccer is equal to 37-0 in football, yet the Emerald Knights came back and won the school's third boys state title with a 4-3 victory in OT.
Thompson, who had an assist, stood alone near a bench while his teammates and what had to have been the entire village of Hamilton continued its celebration nearby.
A miscommunication that Thompson said was his fault led to Jason Baker scoring Chazy's first goal. The burly Eagles player swooped into the Hamilton defensive end and moved from left to right unmarked before firing a shot past keeper Will Keever to the left post. Andrew LaPierre scored Chazy's second goal on a beautiful indirect kick after a dangerous play infraction by Blaine Holcomb. Chazy, playing for its fourth title in five years, seemingly put the game away early in the second half on a Stetson Fields penalty kick after a handball foul by Hamilton defender Bobby Dick.
"It wasn't a happy time," Thompson said.
Somehow, Hamilton rallied. First-team all-state senior midfielder Nathan Steward scored the first goal with 17:24 left in the second half and the Emerald Knights celebrated like it was the game-tying goal. Fifteen minutes later, Matthew Broedel scored the winning goal and the Emerald Knights' belief in themselves was validated. Steward said the team felt good about it chances in the second playing with the win at their backs.
"Down 3-0, we had everything going for us," Steward said.
I might be a cyncial member of the media, but I'm not buying that. Hamilton coach Brian Latella was the voice of reason as his team came back up the field after Broedel's second goal. There was 2:45 left in regulation.
"That's not the winning goal," Latella yelled.
Forty-one seconds into the 15-minute OT, Dan Kraynak scored the game winner off an assist from Tyler White. Chazy players crouched on the field in disbelief and disappointment. Hamilton bench players rushed to join their teammates and the mass of green jerseys moved toward the Emerald Knights fans piling out of the metal stands.
"It's really hard to process," Broedel said later. "I'm really excited."