After capturing its first Class C state title in 2017, the Lansing Bobcats boys soccer team entered this year’s championship weekend with the hopes of notching back-to-back championships. After a weekend filled with expected and some unexpected storylines, the Bobcats are celebrating their second consecutive New York State Public High School Athletic Association State Championship win.
Entering last weekend, the Bobcats carried a 16-game winning streak into the NYSPHSAA Boys Soccer Championships in Middletown, a location that, up until last season, had haunted prior Lansing teams that had come so close to a state championship. Trying to avoid falling short of their goal to defend their crown, the Bobcats looked to start quickly in a semifinal matchup with Madrid-Waddington. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the Yellowjackets entered the game with the same mentality, striking less than three minutes into the contest. After the rude awakening, the Lansing offense came to life with a pressure that suffocated the Yellowjackets inside their own half of the field for a large majority of the game.
At the state championship weekend, there is no bigger stage for a high school athlete to perform on. This idea stands true for junior Eli Bartholomew, who tied the game with a cleanup goal midway through the first half. In a year that saw members of the starting 11 score a large portion of the team’s 98 goals, the substitute rose to the occasion.
The time in the spotlight was well enjoyed by Bartholomew who took advantage of the great form and netted goals 100 and 101 for the Bobcats to complete the hat-trick in a come-from-behind 3-1 win.
A day after the semifinal victory in the face of snow squalls and heavy winds, the skies cleared and the sun shined over Faller Field for the Bobcats’ matchup with a Geneseo squad, hoping to overcome a 2015 semifinal loss.
The Bobcats came out of the gate with another dominating offensive performance that would give way for senior Eric Goehler to open the scoring on a goal that just crossed the goal line. Goehler, who had been held off the scoresheet for some time in the later stages of the postseason, looked relieved and thrilled to have netted the open goal.
A 1-0 halftime lead brought the Lansing faithful to their feet and sparked a second half that saw a more aggressive Bobcats attack. After forcing corner after corner, the Lansing defense joined the attack and positioned junior Matt Weil in front of the Geneseo net, the prime position for Weil to sweep a loose ball into the net for a second Bobcat’s goal.
As time began to tick away from the Blue Devils, Lansing coach Benji Parkes looked to his substitutes to close out the game. One such substitute, senior Mathew Kirkwood would soon find himself embedded in the Geneseo 6-yard box with a chance to tally a late dagger. After the initial chance lifted above the crossbar, the ensuing bounce found its way into the net, giving the senior a goal to remember in his final appearance in a Lansing uniform.
Despite a state championship in 2017, the Bobcats celebrated as if they were kings of the sport for the first time. As the clock showed zeros, the Bobcats stormed Faller Field to celebrate as a team. One celebration stood out for its simplicity, yet powerful meaning, as Langston Hopkins, the senior captain, flashed two fingers as he pumped his arms.
“We saw the excitement that the team had last year and wanted to be able to experience that for ourselves, as a senior class, this year,” he said. “We were all ready to go and we’re just excited to be playing soccer for one more day.”The senior class of Bobcats followed in the footsteps of the previous class who were able to capture the first state title in team history. This year’s seniors knew that they could follow in the footsteps of their former teammates. “We have an expectation at Lansing of getting to championship weekend,” said Hopkins. “We knew, from the start of the season, that we could do it again.”For Parkes, he has enjoyed every second of his time with his team. “All the credit goes to the team,” he said. “They are the ones who put in the time and the effort to get to this point.” In just his third season at the helm, Parkes is 4-1 on championship weekend with two state titles.
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