I’ll have a preview for the Class AA game coming tomorrow and Class C on Saturday, but I wanted to get the B and A previews up today because both of those games will be played on Friday. Of course, I’ll be spending the entire weekend up at Arlington HS to catch all four Section 1 finals, so follow me on Twitter @vzmercogliano for coverage of each section championship game.
No. 3 Pearl River (14-3-2) vs. No. 4 Pelham (13-5-1)
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Arlington High School
Key players: Pearl River – Chris Coughlan, Sr., MF; Brian Chiarello, Sr., F; Matt Neroda, Sr., D; Taylor Rudloff, Sr., D; Vincenzo Galvano, Jr., D. Pelham – Charlie Livingstone, Sr., MF; Aidan Murray, Sr., F; Otavio Basso, Jr., D; Ricarti Basso, Sr., MF; Jefferson Santos, Sr., MF.
Outlook: Well, I may have correctly picked the two Class B finalists before the playoffs began, but I whiffed on my Class A prediction. This may not be the matchup that most expected – in fact, this will be only the second A final since 2004 that does not feature either Byram, Lakeland or Port Chester – but these are clearly the two hottest teams in the class. Pelham comes into the title game having won 10 straight, showing just how dangerous it can be when fully healthy. The combination of central midfielder Charlie Livingstone and striker Aidan Murray is about as good as it gets in Section 1, but the Pelicans really don’t seem to have a weak spot in their starting 11. They have been strong in the back since the return of their defensive captain in Otavio Basso, and they have an energetic group of midfielders who fight to win every 50-50 ball. Pearl River has some similar characteristics. The Pirates are always solid in the back and deep in the midfield, led by Coughlan, who has become one of the best two-way players in the section after exclusively playing defense earlier in his career. He’ll often look to find striker Brian Chiarello up top, but PR seems to spread out the scoring a bit more than Pelham. With that being said, I think that most would consider the Pelicans to be the stronger offensive club because Murray will be the biggest threat on the field. I expect to see a defender shadowing him anytime he gets the ball in the final third. Pelham took care of the Pirates with a 2-0 win when they met on Oct. 18, so recent history favors the Pelicans. But while it may sound silly to worry about a letdown in a championship game, the Pelicans are coming off of a very emotional win over tournament favorite Byram and have a recent win PR, so they’ll be in trouble if they come into this one thinking that they already have it won.
Next up: The winner will play the Section 4 champion in the regional semifinals on Wednesday at a location and time TBD.
Prediction: Pelham 1, Pearl River 0
Photo by Carucha L. Meuse/The Journal News