Tonawanda senior Joe Spano (left) defends in a game earlier this season. Tonawanda went on to win its first sectional title in 20 years before losing the Class B cross-over game. (Photo by Jeff Barnes)
The Tonawanda Warriors can hold their heads high as they did their school, family, friends, and city proud.
The improbable playoff run of the Tonawanda boys soccer team came to a close on a chilly night last week (Nov. 6) when the Class B2 champion Warriors fell to B1 champs East Aurora 5-0 in the overall “B” sectional championship game that was played at Howe Field at Hamburg High School.
The loss came three days after the Warriors captured the program’s first sectional crown in 20 years by beating Akron 1-0 in the Class B2 title tilt.
Facing an East Aurora Blue Devils team that was unbeaten and ranked No.2 in the state in Class B, the Warriors knew they had a tall order.
East Aurora was every bit as good as advertised. They moved the ball with authority, and were able to maintain unrelenting pressure on Tonawanda keeper Jesse Bortz who, despite giving up five goals, still made some standout saves as he faced two dozen shots.
While not much made sense for the Warriors in the minutes following the loss, deep down they all know that once they take a step back they will recognize the significance of their accomplishment.
“I thought we came a real long way from the team we were at the beginning of the season,” senior
Phil Giuga said. “We did what hadn’t been done in a long time...We can’t be disappointed. We’ve got to hold our heads high.”
At the heart of this group’s run to the title was a team-first unselfish approach — the kind of mind-set you can’t teach or demand a team to have, it has to come from the heart.
“Everyone played as a team,” Riley Gardner noted.
The Warriors also beat City Honors and Southwestern along the way in the playoffs.
“These guys have got a lot to be proud of,” coach JJ Gabor said. “They beat a lot of teams they probably weren’t supposed to beat. I’m sure they’re all down, they’re all disappointed. But at the same time they know what they’ve accomplished and they know that it wasn’t because of one or two guys. And it wasn’t because it was easy. We worked hard.”
Giuga, Gardner, Bortz, Nate Holler, Jacob Choate, Jed Woomer, Sam Battistella, Mark Emery, Chuckie Richards, Jon Baumler, Chris Freer, Alex George, Jeremy Baumann, Cory Compeau, Jordan Hughes, Bob Liebel, Kyle Maracle, Michael Iuvino, and Joe Spano made up the 2012 Section VI Class B2 champion Tonawanda Warriors.