The argument could be made that Section VII has the best Class D soccer in the state of New York.
The Chazy Eagles are the standard-bearer for that statement, as the five-time and back-to-back defending New York State Public High School Association Class D champions are entering Saturday’s Regional championship game against Parishville-Hopkinton looking for a shot to three-peat.
To get to this point, the Eagles (16-3-0) had to battle their way through a 1-0 overtime victory against the Elizabethtown-Lewis Lions and then reclaim their sectional throne with a 1-0 win against the Willsboro Warriors, the team responsible for two of the three losses on the Chazy record.
The combination of games left people broadcasting, reporting and watching saying that any of the three teams would have made a solid representative for Section VII in the state playoffs and would have been a favorite to keep the state title banner in the North Country.
Last season, the Eagles traveled a similar road, beating the Lions 1-0 in the semifinals before scoring a 2-0 win against the Warriors in the finals. In the Regionals, Chazy scored a 2-0 win over Parishville-Hopkinton, a 5-0 win over Section II champions Fort Ann in the semifinals and a 1-0 win against Hamilton in the state title game.
In the most recent New York State Sportswriters Association poll, the Eagles were ranked fifth, with the former second-ranked team in the state — Willsboro — falling to 12th and the ELCS Lions ranked 15th. Only Section III, located in the Syracuse area, equals Section VII, the North Country, with three teams in the top 15 (top-ranked Hamilton, eighth Old Forge and 14th Cincinnatus).
Because of the competition between the three schools, Eagles head coach Rob McAuliffe said that the Section VII tournament is great preparation for the states.
“You have two great programs in Willsboro and Elizabethtown-Lewis with two great soccer coaches,” McAuliffe said after his team captured the sectional title Nov. 5. “We have been fortunate to be the representative for Section VII quite often, and to have these great teams competing against each other is a big advantage as you try to get to the final four.”
“In Section VII, it’s like having a class that is very hard, but that prepares you more for the test at the end,” Eagles player Hunter Dominy, who scored the lone goal in the sectional final said.
“They are both great teams, and we have to play hard each time we face them,” Eagles sweeper Nathan Reynolds said.
“We don’t look past anybody in this section,” McAuliffe said. “We take everybody seriously.”
The Eagles will also not overlook Parishville-Hopkinton, which is ranked 10th in the NYSSWA rankings in Class D. The two teams will take to the Plattsburgh High School pitch on Saturday, Nov. 12 with a 3 p.m. kickoff time. The Panthers (14-2-3) scored a 3-0 win against Harrisville to claim the Section X title Wednesday, Nov. 9.