QUEENS – When Austin Zaepfel drove a shot into the goal with four minutes left in double overtime Sunday, it set off a wild, historic celebration never before experienced by a Canisius boys soccer team.
Zaepfel’s goal clinched the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association championship for the Crusaders, as they became the first team in school history to win a state title, 2-1, over Chaminade.
In a game played before a vocal Flyers’ fan base at St. John’s University, Canisius outside midfielder Jimmy Gallagher played a key role in the game-winning play. He took a pass down the right side and his cross to the box slipped past a defender and found Zaepfel, a senior who scored his second overtime winner in as many games.
Canisius joins the St. Joe’s (1995) and the Nichols girls (2010) as the only Monsignor Martin teams to win state Catholic titles in soccer.
“It’s great for the Canisius High School program,” said Crusaders coach Sam Belsito. “The other teams are highly skilled downstate. It’s a great honor [to be the first Canisius team to win this championship]. We’re really proud of these guys. They gutted it out all weekend,”
That includes Zaepfel, who battled through ankle and calf injuries that had him in and out of the lineup during the season to play in perhaps the two most important games of the season. He scored in the 97th minute in Canisius’ 1-0 overtime win over Fordham Prep in Saturday’s semifinal.
Canisius (16-4-2) had a 1-0 lead five minutes into the contest after Kevin Armstrong’s goal. Chaminade tied it with 15 minutes left in regulation via penalty kick after the Crusaders were whistled for a hand ball in the box.
That was the only time Chaminade beat goalie Paul Burich, who finished with eight saves – including one in overtime on a point-blank chance.
“We were definitely underdogs,” Belsito said. “Our kids kept their composure.”
The triumph caps quite a weekend for Canisius High School, which began with the Crusaders completing their first unbeaten season in football in 36 years when they beat Timon-St. Jude for the Monsignor Martin title Saturday.