PLATTSBURGH — After losing 14 players off last year’s state title team as well as leading scorer Derek Drake to a season-ending early on this year, Chazy boys’ soccer coach Rob McAuliffe wasn’t sure how far his team could go.
Little has changed, however, as the Eagles find themselves back in the NYSPHSAA Class D final four.
“After Drake was injured, that left us with two starters returning,” McAuliffe said. “But the goal for this team is to win a state championship. We weren’t going to use losing a lot of players from the season before as an excuse. We set that in the beginning.
“We felt this team would be good enough to win it. And what makes this team special is that everyone has contributed over the course of the season. Different players have scored big goals for us and our defense has played well all season.”
The Section VII-champion Eagles (16-1-3) will take on Section II winner Fort Ann (19-1), pitting the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams in Class D, respectively, in today’s 2:45 p.m. final four semifinals at Middletown High School’s turf field.
Section V’s Jasper-Troupsburg and Section III’s Watertown-Immaculate Heart Central tangle in the first game at 12:30 p.m. The Class D championship game is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Chazy and Fort Ann are certainly familiar to one another.
The Eagles edged out a 1-0 victory over Poland in last year’s semifinals before recording a 4-0 win over the Cardinals in the state championship contest.
This year’s Fort Ann team advanced to the states with a 2-1 win over Northville and then posted a 1-0 decision over Smithtown-Christian in regional play.
The Cardinals are outscoring their opponents, 93-11, with Chris Jackson leading the way with an impressive 40 goals.
“Fort Ann didn’t lose as much as we did from last year and we knew the possibility was there that we would be playing them again,” McAuliffe said. “They have an experienced team that was there last year and will not be in awe.
“They’re in the final four for a reason. I believe they won the state baseball championship last spring. We know we’re going to have our hands full and that we have to play well.”
The key number this year for Chazy is seven. The Eagles have won state championships in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012.
The Eagles survived Section VII with a 1-0 overtime victory over Elizabethtown-Lewis in the finals and then rolled to a 10-0 decision over Section X champion Harrisville in regional play, with both games played at the Plattsburgh High School Sports Complex.
Chazy is outscoring its opponents by a 57-11 margin.
Unlike in past seasons where the Eagles have had eye-popping individual statistics, this year’s team is more balanced.
The Eagles have six players — Josh Barriere (12-8-32), Alex Rabideau (10-7-27), Hayden Guay (8-9-25), Alec LaPierre (6-2-14), Gage Ducatte (5-4-14) and Tyler Hicks (6-1-13) — with 13 points or more.
“I don’t think opponents can concentrate on any one of our players,” McAuliffe said. “I feel good that anyone on our team will be the one to get a big goal for us.
“We know that getting out of our section is always very tough. Teams like Elizabethtown-Lewis always give us a good game. Once we got past them this year, we were able to relax a little more.
“It was kind of a perfect storm against Harrisville. We were playing real well and we caught them off guard.
“Going into the weekend, we have a very good mindset and a very good attitude.”