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South Meadow wins Class M boys soccer title

The true test of a championship team is how it deals with adversity.

And while the South Meadow School boys soccer team had faced very little of it during the course of its 2012 season that was not the case on Thursday. The Pumas were unbeaten in their previous 17 games entering the Class M championship game on their home field and had allowed just two goals the entire season. They had never trailed, but that all changed when the two-time defending Class M title holders from Hampstead scored first.

It remained that way into the half, but it was far from how the championship game would end.

Eighth grader Nile Hertzler scored midway through the second half and again in overtime, as SMS won the 2012 Class M crown 3-1 to cap off the undefeated season.

“Every once in a while you have a special group of kids,” said coach Tod Silegy. “And this is one of them.”

In the previous two meetings, SMS had defeated Hampstead 2-0 each time.

“My experience has taught me that it’s very difficult to beat a team three times,” said Silegy. “I’m sure coming in they didn’t want to lose to us three times in a row.”

In middle school soccer, there is no sudden death once the game goes into overtime. The two teams must play a pair of 10-minute periods before a winner is decided. Hertzler’s first goal came on a second half penalty kick after a hand ball by Hampstead just feet from the goal line. He put it securely in the lower left hand corner to tie the game.

With a 1-1 tie following regulation and extra time necessary to determine a champion, overtime presented another set of unfamiliar circumstances for the Pumas. But again, they persevered.

It was once again Hertzler scoring the eventual game-winner on another penalty kick. When teammate Jake Dunlap was taken down in the box by a Hampstead defender, Hertzler stepped up to the ball and put it in the exact same place as the first.

“I just felt Nile was the one to choose,” said Silegy. “I chose him for the first one and he just stepped up to the second one. I didn’t have to tell him and that’s what you want.”

But the Pumas were far from a win. When Hertzler put SMS up 2-1, there was still three minutes remaining in the first overtime. There was still a lot of soccer left to be played.

Yet like they had done so many times before, the undefeated Pumas kept their oppositions at bay. And with three seconds left, Max Sturges put the icing on the cake with South Meadow’s third goal.

“In the end, myself included, we felt the stress,” Silegy said of the undefeated season. “Everything has to go right to win a championship.”

And it was the first game with Hampstead on Sept. 27 that Silegy points to as a defining moment. It was the first time SMS had faced the Hawks since losing 1-0 in last year’s title game.

“Over the last two years they’ve been undefeated, basically unscored on and the two-time champion in Class M,” said Silegy. “So that game developed some confidence in them.”

The Pumas finished 17-0-1 overall, including an 11-0-1 mark in Class M play. They outscored their opponents 78 to 3. In the semifinal round, SMS defeated Cawley 2-0.

The last boys soccer championship for SMS came in 2004.

“We’ve been right there, “said Silegy, who was the coach of the 2004 team. “We’ve been knocking on the door for eight years.”

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