GI boys split A-1 title with Will. East

Paul Battson/contributorGrand Island's Sean Graham fights through traffic in Saturday's Section VI Class A-1 title game at Williamsville East. The Vikings and the Flames split the title after a 0-0 draw.

WILLIAMSVILLE — The Vikings took on the mighty Flames and the result feels a bit odd.

No. 2 seed Grand Island boys soccer battled for 110 minutes with Class A-1's unbeaten No. 1 seed Williamsville East (14-0-2), but both schools remained scoreless through two overtimes, finishing with a 0-0 draw to split the Section VI Class A-1 championship Saturday at Williamsville East High School.

GI (11-3-2) recorded its second tie of the year, as the program wins its first sectional boys soccer championship since closing out a three-year run in 2017.

Vikings head coach Frank Butcher was unsure of the message to share with the boys, who closed the season with a share of a second title to go along with the 2020 NFL championship. But it was senior co-captain Josh Hunt who summed up the result in its simplest terms.

"Bittersweet," Hunt yelled out in the postgame chat.

Butcher couldn't think of the perfect word in the moment, but he's glad Hunt did. The tie put another notch in 2020's belt.

"A weird ending to a weird season," Butcher said. "You want to finish on top, but it's kind of the best of a bad situation, because you don't win but you don't really lose. You're happy for the guys but there's still a little disappointment in the air."

Recalling the COVID-19 season that was helped Butcher in perspective. At the beginning of the year, he often told the kids how "lucky" they were to be out on the pitch, especially with the uncertainty of the other 2020-21 sports seasons. Not being dismayed by a 2-3-1 stretch in mid-October, Butcher saw the group persevere to close out the season, winning four of the last five games.

"Due to some injuries, we had a couple losses in the middle of the year," Butcher said.

"But as we got healthier and healthier, we really dug in and they fought, and everybody worked their tails off for the last half of the season and I can't say enough. Every year the kids get a little special place in your heart. But these guys really dug deep this year and I think they outperformed what the expectation was of them at the beginning of the season, so I'm really super proud of them."

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