ARMONK — The two best players on the field for Byram Hills and Pelham on Thursday also happen to be great friends off of it. But just because Sam Ganeles and Aidan Murray have a good relationship doesn’t mean that they didn’t want to do everything in their power to beat the other.
“In many ways, being friends actually makes it a lot more competitive,” said Ganeles, a senior defender for Byram Hills. “It’s one thing marking up on a stranger who you’re never going to talk to again, but me and Aidan are going to talk about every play all year.”
Although the game was called just about a minute into the second half due to thunder, it was Ganeles and the Bobcats who earned early-season bragging rights with a 1-0 win.
“We marked this down as one of our biggest games of the season, so this was kind of tough,” Ganeles said. “But what can you do? The weather is the weather.”
The game had some extra juice to it because it was the Bobcats (2-0) who knocked out the Pelicans in the Class A quarterfinals last year. Coming into this season, Byram and Pelham (0-1) were ranked No. 1 and No. 2,respectively, in the Class A LoHud Power Rankings.
“They’re one of the top contenders in the section. We knew that coming into the game,” Byram’s junior midfielder Cole Tannor said. “I thought we were prepared for what was to come. We matched them physically, and we were first to a lot of the 50-50 balls.”
With the game being so highly anticipated, both teams started off a bit timid. The Bobcats didn’t have a shot on goal through the first 30 minutes, but Tannor made sure that their first shot was true.
In the 31st minute, senior Nick Vettoretti came streaking down the right side of the field and lifted a pass into the box, where Tannor was waiting to finish with the header.
“Nick was taking it down the line, so I knew I was going to have to get in the box. I was looking to just make contact with it,” Tannor said. “It was a little bit ahead of me, so I just threw my head back and was able to make good contact with it. As far as seeing it go in, I didn’t see it until it was in the back of the net.”
The Bobcats were able to keep the Pelicans off of the board going into the half, as they focused on limiting the touches for Murray and senior midfielder Charlie Livingstone.
“Aidan is a freak athlete,” Ganeles said. “He’s so fast and strong. For me, when I was playing left back, the goal was really to read the play to close it down before he can turn. Once he starts running, he’s almost impossible to stop.”
More of my thoughts and observations from the game:
• Byram was expecting Pelham to use Murray more up top and in the center of the field, like a traditional striker, but he played on the wing closer to the midfield. Coach Matty Allen said that it was only the second time in 12 seasons that he’s man-marked an opposing player, and he had Ganeles shadowing him for most of the game (or should I say half?). That meant that Ganeles had to move from his usual center back position to left back. “Our plan was to try with Sam to take Aidan’s options out of the game, and make Livingstone go to a different direction. For the most part, I thought we did a good job,” Allen said. “We originally had Sam playing in the middle, and one of the comments that I made after the game was that I really like the way that we adjusted to that change.”
• Murray had a few decent runs, but Pelham coach Terence Huvane also pulled him for about eight minutes in the middle of the first half. He’s dealing with a right ankle issue, and Huvane said that he’s trying to be careful with his star player. “He is not 100 percent,” Huvane said. “Our goal today was to get him 30 minutes, and he ended up getting 33. He didn’t report any setbacks, and that was good. Even at 75-80 percent, he’s on everyone’s mind when he’s on the field.”
• It was interesting to see the Bobcats change their game plan based on what they saw from the Pelicans early on. Usually, Byram is the type of team that tries to dictate how the game is played, but Allen seems more open to making adjustments this season. “In years past, we’ve had to play one formation,” Allen said. “This is really the first year where we’re adapting to other teams.”
• Pelham outshot Byram, 6-5, but neither team had many quality chances. They each only put two shots on goal, with Tannor’s goal being the difference in the game. Bennett Kramer had a nice run in the 19th minute in which he weaved through the Pelicans’ defense, but his shot was just wide. Other than that, the Bobcats were pretty content to lean on their defense. “We’ve always really been that way. We’re a defensive oriented-team, especially early in the season,” Allen said. “We like to counter. We like when teams come forward, and that’s kind of the way that we play. We feel like we’re really good defensively, and we’re confident in our goalie.”
• One thing that the Bobcats seem to be very pleased about after two games is that each of their four goals have come from a different player. After relying heavily on Jon Berry last season – who led the section with 28 goals – it has to be more of a balanced approach this year. “It’s definitely a different philosophy for us. We’re not just kicking it up to one guy and watching what he does,” Tannor said. “Everyone knows that they really need to make a contribution to win.”
• Everyone was disappointed that they couldn’t play the full 80 minutes, but Huvane still said that it was the “right decision” to try and get the game in. The Pelicans were hoping to exact some revenge after losing to Byram in last year’s playoffs, but now they’re hoping that they’ll still get another crack at them. “It’s a process,” Huvane said. “We know we have a good chance of seeing them again, (but) we take it one game at time.”
MORE RESULTS FROM THURSDAY (many games were postponed)
After a one-sided playoff win four years ago, Rye coach Jared Small made arrangements with Yonkers coach Janet Ryan to set up an annual meeting between the two.
In a game Small said both teams look forward to each year, visiting Rye edged Yonkers 3-2 Thursday after senior George Knudsvig netted the first goal of both his varsity and high school career in the 71st minute.
Ryan Costa scored a pair of goals to give the Garnets an early 2-0 lead before the Bulldogs quickly equalized the match on goals by Chris Cruz and Carlos Beltran.
“I tried reminding (my team) that it’s a pretty small field and that there can be a lot of goals and a lot of opportunities,” Small said. “You can’t be complacent (leading by) two goals, which I think every soccer coach learns at some point.”
Small commended the Bulldogs for their performance not just in this game, but over the years.
“Four years ago, the program wasn’t nearly as good,” he said. “They went from a mediocre team prior to (Ryan taking over) to a team that each year has gotten better. The team respects her.”
Best of the rest: Marco Christiano scored in Briarcliff’s 1-0 win over Irvington. … Connor Murphy had two goals and an assist in North Salem’s 3-1 win over John Jay. … Austin Capasso and Fulvio Salza scored in Eastchester’s 2-0 win over Hastings.
Photos by Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News