Sunday, November 2, 2014

Braham, Yorktown Hope To Conclude Sleeper Story With Championship

"Magic carpet ride," "Cinderella story" and "out of nowhere tear" have all been used to describe Yorktown's wild 2014 post-season power surge.

 The Huskers, a No.11 seed once mired in sub- .500 mediocrity, have stormed into Sunday's Section 1 title game.

 Recording upset after upset after upset, the Huskers are riding a storied playoff  conquest into Sunday’s championship against perennially potent Byram Hills.

Yorktown was the lone double-digit seed remaining in the tournament last week.

Now, as the Huskers savor the role of sleeper while simultaneously playing the role of spoiler, they will look to do the unthinkable.

 No 11th-seed has ever won a championship, since the inception of Section 1 soccer.

Are the Huskers really a no.11 seed? They had five regular season losses decided by a single goal, so the disparity isn’t all that accurate.

At close glance, this is the result of not only a scoring binge from senior forward Mohammed Hamza, but the defensive backbone that is Yorktown senior Jake Braham.

Braham has authored unrivaled efficiency, surrendering just one goal this post-season.

Yorktown has trounced Section 1 foes by a 12-1 margin in the post season. They’ve made their name disrupting, neutralizing, and negating the flow of fluid offenses.

 They’ve rendered it an ugly game for foes.

“It’s been the communication between the back four and myself,” said Braham, who was aided by a stout defensive performance from Matt Sussman against Somers.

 Braham’s 13-save performance during last year's season-ending loss to Horace Greeley was a portent of things to come.

A killer instinct and high-order responsibility, one entailing more time dissecting the strengths of scorers, has allowed Braham to thrive.

 So has making several acrobatic saves that only rarified athletes are capable of.

There are no magic carpet rides, ghosts, or Halloween tricks linked to Braham's shutouts against Panas, Tappan Zee, and now Somers.

“As an 11th seed, nobody expected us to be (in the final),” Braham said.

“We’ve really relished the role of playing as an underdog. We have the mentality needed to travel for an away game, as the lower seed and still come out with the ‘W.’

 The lone goal surrendered came on a penalty kick during the Huskers' Section 1/Class A quarterfinal win over Hen Hud.

 The Yorktown Slammers, a Yorktown Youth Soccer Club-based travel team and virtual feeder system for Ed Polchinski's varsity, is where it all started for this tight-knit core.

Seven of the team’s starters have been playing together since elementary school.

 Though Braham, who bid adieu to baseball to focus solely on soccer on his own 12-month program, traverses the country for elite-level tournaments, he’s stayed loyal to his initial team.   

Sprouting and packing on muscle before a vast majority of his classmates, Braham is actually one of the younger kids in the Class of 2015.

 He turned 17 on Oct. 14, making him one of the youngest Class of 2015 seniors. His game garnered the interest of D.C. United's prestigious U-18 team.

Braham, who holds a 4.1 GPA and already has enough credits to graduate, will be making the trek to D.C. during the second semester of his senior year.

 While academics are first and foremost to the seasoned senior, he will seize the opportunity to weigh his professional stock. Ivy Leagues and prestigious West Coast schools are potential destinations, though Braham won’t flinch at the play-for-pay opportunity.

"It's an amazing opportunity," said Braham of the prospect of prolonging his career professionally.

"It's something that every athlete and every little kid dreams of. It'll be a long and tough road to accomplish it, however, this is my chance and I need to take it.”

That road features a major stop at Arlington High School Sunday.

"Everyone dreams of being on this stage,” said Braham.

The scoring pace of Mohammed Hamza, who scored at least two goals in three straight games and supplied the game-sealer in Yorktown's 1-0 semifinal win over Somers, has been pivotal.

Hamza reaped immediate rewards of transitioning from midfield to forward, becoming a focal point and taking leadership matters into his own hands.

Sophomore Adam Romanski has played an increased game management role. Possessing a purity of vision and innate feel of where and who to feed, Romanski has quarterbacked the Huskers.

"The biggest thing for Adam and Mohammed, and the rest of the team, is they've finally found their best position on the team,” Braham explained.

“Mo has really been able to show off his pace, touch, and finishing move up top. Adam can show off his vision and distribution better now that he's playing a more advanced position in the midfield.”

Braham readied himself for the playoff role by refurbishing the mental aspect.

His mindset is to go into the game anticipating a clean sheet, a wealth of confidence that's kept the net intact.

Braham, the Huskers, and any natural fan of the underdog, will hope this mentality resonates against the Bobcats in Sunday’s championship.