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Here is my game story:
ARMONK — Twice in the past year, Pelham had tasted defeat on the home turf of perennial Class A power Byram Hills. The Pelicans were staring down the possibility of yet another loss to the Bobcats in the semifinals on Wednesday, but instead they were able to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season.
“We’ve been saying it: ‘Third time’s the charm,’ ” senior midfielder Charlie Livingstone said. “We knew we were going to have to beat these guys. We knew it all year. When we lost to them in that first game, we knew that we were going to get another shot at them. When we saw that they were on our side of the bracket, we were so happy, because we knew we could take them. And we showed it here.”
It had been seven years since top-seeded Byram lost a home playoff game, but that all changed with Pelham’s shocking 1-0 win, sending the fourth-seeded Pelicans to the Class A title game against No. 3 Pearl River at Arlington High on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“Charlie gave me a great ball to get one-on-one,” Murray said. “I got that half step to get around him a little bit, and then the defense kind of came in at me. I knew if I could cross it, Charlie would be there to finish.”
The Bobcats (16-2-1) had senior defender Sam Ganeles man-mark Murray when they met in the first week of the season, but Pelham got creative with its top striker on Wednesday, switching him from side-to-side and allowing him to play closer to the midfield.
“Aidan didn’t really give us an option,” Byram coach Matty Allen said. “He didn’t let us mark him because he was going left and right on the field, so we tried to have Sam shadow him, and I thought Sam did a phenomenal job. There’s really not much that you could do. He takes it to the end line, puts in a great cross, and at that point, it’s chaos.”
The Bobcats changed their formation halfway through the second half to push more players up and create more scoring chances, but the Pelicans’ defense allowed just three shots on goal.
“I thought Livingstone pushing the ball as much as he did really gave us fits in the midfield,” Allen said. “Our midfield was sitting back, and they were literally marking four against David (Lachs). It was double-edged sword. If we would have sat back, they would have countered very quickly, and if we would have pushed up, we would have been left exposed. That’s the style that we play. We hope to win the midfield, and today, it didn’t work out.”
Lachs came into the game having recorded hat tricks in each of the first two rounds, but Pelham effectively limited his touches with center back Otavio Basso and the combination of Jefferson Santos and Eddie Livingstone winning balls in the midfield.
“I cannot say enough about our defense,” Charlie Livingstone said. “They were so solid. In the second half, they were throwing it all at us, and we just withheld.”
“We got beat today,” Allen said. “I know it’s been awhile since we’ve been beat on our home field, and I think it was our first home playoff loss in seven years. Really, a great run, but we got beat in every phase – from coaching, to midfield, defense and forwards. I thought that they outplayed us today.”
Photos by Carucha Meuse/Video by Vincent Z. Mercogliano