By BRANDON SCHLAGER
Niagara Gazette — SANBORN – Death, taxes and Niagara-Wheatfield versus Hamburg for the Section VI Class B boys lacrosse championship. All of them seem inevitable.
For the third year in a row, the second-seeded Falcons will head to the sectional finals. For the third year in a row, they’ll meet the Bulldogs, the No. 1 seed in Class B and the ninth-ranked team in the state.
The rematch comes courtesy of Ryan Koch’s goal in the dying seconds of the Falcons’ 14-13 win over No. 6 Williamsville East in the Class B semifinals Thursday at Terry Harvey Field.
After senior goalie Wyatt Fauzey turned aside a prime scoring chance on Flames’ leading scorer Nick Skibitsky, who had already found the back of the net four times earlier, Niagara-Wheatfield coach Vince Schiffert used his final timeout to draw up one last play to go for the win.
With just over a minute remaining, Zach Dubuc set off down field. Dubuc and fellow senior co-captain Rob McMicking rotated the ball back and forth until McMicking found a lane to the net. As he charged, McMicking tossed a no-look pass over his right shoulder to Koch, who buried a wide-open shot to the back of the net from five feet away with 53.4 seconds to play.
The Falcons fended off a handful of last-ditch chances from the Flames but hung on for what was a gritty, back-and-forth win that saw three lead changes and 16 combined penalties.
“It was just an incredible game, two good teams with a bunch of good athletes dodging, shooting, moving the ball up and down the field,” Schiffert said. “That’s what it was all about today. Both teams could move that ball and score. It was tough day to be a goalie.”
McMicking led all scorers with four goals and four assists, including the helper on the winning goal, and Koch, a junior, had two more goals to go with his game-winner. Dubuc also scored a hat trick with two assists and junior Mitch Pittman scored three goals as well.
You couldn’t tell from the scoresheet, but Schiffert noted the biggest key to the Falcons’ victory was junior Brennen Ferguson, who returned to play his first game after missing nearly a month to a hip injury.
The Syracuse University-bound Ferguson notched three assists and won a number of key faceoffs and ground balls. As the Falcons prepared to play the game without their co-captain, his last-minute decision to play is what made the difference.
“He didn’t start the game but he came in and took more shifts as it went on and said, ‘I feel good, I feel good. Get me out there,’” Schiffert said. “It’s so huge (to have Ferguson in the lineup). It’s huge not just because he can score and assist and win draws, but it’s an emotional lift for the boys when one of the captains and the big gun is back.”
With Hamburg’s 14-5 win over Iroquois in the other semifinal matchup Thursday, the Falcons head into next week looking to avenge their season-opening 14-4 loss to the Bulldogs and a 15-7 loss in last year's title game.
The Bulldogs have won five of the last six Class B championships.
"I want revenge on them for what they did to us at the beginning of the season," Koch said. "I don’t know. I hope we can pull through on that one. I think we can do it."
The Falcons and Bulldogs will meet at All-High Stadium at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.Follow contributing sports reporter Brandon Schlager on Twitter @B_Schlag.