The Tioga soccer team has not lost a game since April 17, 2021.
That afternoon, the Tigers lost to Newark Valley 29-23.
Since then, head coach Nick Aiello — a 2002 Allegany-Limestone graduate — has watched his side rack up 25 straight wins, including a 27-0 shutout by Moriah in last year’s New York State Public High Class D title game School Athletic Association JMA Wireless Dome.
Now the Tigers are just one win away from returning to championship play in Syracuse.
Randolph stands in their way.
The two teams will compete in the NYSPHSAA Class D Western Semifinals today at 3:00 p.m. at Union-Endicott High School’s Ty-Cobb Stadium, which was renovated this summer.
Brent Brown’s Cardinals are also undefeated this fall after suffering a 42-26 win over Oakfield-Alabama/Elba at SUNY Brockport’s Far West Regional at Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium on Monday night.
“We built our defense on the rim last week around No. 20 (Noah Currier). He was fast and really good.” Brown said Wednesday after Randolph completed training at Gail N. Chapman Elementary School. “This week their quarterback is running the ball … and they’re having a good jam, too.”
Senior Xander Hind rushed for a career-high 48 times for 281 yards and five touchdowns on Monday as Randolph avenged a 28-22 loss at the 2021 Far West Regional to the same Aggies.
With 2,328 yards on the season, Hind is 208 yards away from Chris Doubek’s Randolph and Section VI record of 2,536, set in the Cardinals’ 2013 state championship season.
Hind is also up to 4,621 career yards — already Randolph’s all-time leader — and within reach of becoming one of about 50 players to reach 5,000 in their career in New York State.
“All of our plays look the same, but they’re blocked differently, with different angles or attacks on a different guy.” said Brown. “The linemen have to keep it all straight. If they throw in two or three different fronts, they have to be able to identify it.”
“If Xander lets the ball go.” Brown added, “You give him a crack and he gets 2 yards, then he gets 2 or 3 more after contact. It’s hard to stop.”
Brown knows that Hind’s success and the team’s success go hand in hand. If the strong running back doesn’t carry the ball for at least 200 yards more than 30 times, the Cardinals are in trouble. If Randolph doesn’t keep winning and playing more games, Hind won’t achieve the goals he’s set for himself.
“Obviously he’s going to get the ball a couple of times this week.” said Brown. “Once you get into the playoffs nobody really talks about that stuff. If it happens, great. We just have to win.”
The last time the Cardinals played in a state semifinals was in 2014 when they defeated Aiello’s Tigers 20-8 at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester. That was one game before Randolph won his third straight Class D state championship and fifth overall.
“The last time we played them it was 6-2 in the fourth quarter,” said Brown. “Both teams usually play pretty good defence.”
Tioga has 40+ points in all three playoff games. In the Section IV semifinals, the Tigers defeated Spencer-Van Etten/Candor 49-18 before defeating Delaware Academy 42-14 in the Section IV title game. Last Friday they beat Dolgeville 42-6 at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
“They run a lot of the stuff we do, but we haven’t played them since 2014.” said Brown. “They added things. We used to always play 4-4 defensively. Now they have a few different fronts that they are showing.”
Junior Drew Macumber leads Tioga with 1,062 yards and 18 touchdowns while fellow junior Ousmane Duncanson has 717 yards and 13 touchdowns.
But quarterback Caden Bellis is also a threat on the ground and in the air. The junior has completed 63 of 94 passes for 1,078 yards and 19 touchdowns against just three interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 494 yards and eight touchdowns.
“They want to run the ball, but their quarterback throws it really well,” said Brown. “They threw it pretty far.”
Junior Valentino Rossi is the Tigers’ biggest threat with 20 catches for 467 yards and seven touchdowns, while fellow junior Evan Sickler has 16 catches for 232 yards and four touchdowns.
“The receivers are running crisp routes and the quarterback is really bringing it to them,” said Brown. “If they throw it, we’ll have to keep everyone in front of us.”
Another junior, Karson Sindoni, also has 13 catches for 192 yards and four touchdowns.
“They opened things up a bit. They do some singlebacks, they do some spreads.” said Brown. “It’s different after 10 years.”
In the latest rankings from the New York State Sportswriters Association, released Wednesday, Tioga is No. 1 and Randolph is No. 2.
That will change next week when the Cardinals end the Tigers’ rule.
“I don’t know that anyone is under pressure” said Brown. “We played them three times and two of those games were really close. One got an extra point.”