ONEONTA, NY (WKTV) - The game was over. Finished. Done. No way was the Hamilton boys soccer team going to come back from a 3-0 deficit with 18 minutes left in the state Class D championship against top-ranked Chazy, which had won three of the past four titles. No way.
But as the saying goes, "It ain't over till it's over."
Facing that impossible situation at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, the Emerald Knights rallied for three goals to tie the game, then won it less than a minute into the first overtime on a turnaround shot by Daniel Kraynak for their first state championship since 1997.
Suffice it to say, "Wow!" is an understatement.
Hamilton, ranked No. 3 in the state coming in and appearing in its first state final four since 1998, came out firing to start the game, dominating the first 20 minutes and keeping Chazy, from Section VII, on its heels. But the Knights could not cash in on three great opportunities, and momentum shifted to the Eagles when Jason Barker put a crossing shot inside the far post at 23:04 for a 1-0 lead.
Chazy doubled it eight minutes later thanks to a break. A controversial penalty call went against Hamilton when a player from each side got tangled up on the ground over a loose ball just outside the box, and a great set play by the Eagles ended with Stetson Fields crossing to Jordan Barriere for a 2-0 lead at the half. The Eagles made it 3-0 15 minutes into the second half on a penalty kick goal by Fields after a Hamilton handball in the box, and the game was well in hand.
Then, Hamilton returned to its early-first half aggressiveness.
With 17:24 remaining, Nathan Steward had a crossing pass blocked back to him and decided to shoot it from 35 yards out. The ball just got in between the crossbar and leaping freshman goalie Austin Santor's fingertips, and Hamilton was on the board.
With 8:05 remaining, the Knights pressured Chazy's defense inside the box, and Matthew Broedel put in a quick turnaround shot to make it a one-goal game.
With 2:44 remaining, Steward boomed a direct kick from midfield in front of the goal, and after ricocheting off a scrum of players, Broedel scored again, and Hamilton had come all the way back to tie the game 3-3.
The Emerald Knights' momentum was then either helped or hurt by a freak play. With 1:28 left in regulation, a lofted ball in front of Chazy's goal led to several players jumping to head it, and the result was Chazy losing defenseman Andrew LaPierre and Santor to head injuries in the collision. Santor was carted off the field in an ambulance as a precaution, and the resulting 25-minute delay iced both teams in the chilly weather.
But when Hamilton got the ball first in the first sudden-death overtime, the Emerald Knights wasted no time ending the game, as Kraynak scored just 41 seconds in to complete one of, if not the, greatest comebacks in state playoff history.
Hamilton finishes the season 22-2 with its only two losses being to Poland, which it beat in a third matchup in the Section III, Class D championship to make the state tournament. Chazy also ends the year 22-2.
Broedel was named Hamilton's Most Valuable Player for the final four.