LAGRANGEVILLE —The connection that got Pelham to the section final was the same one that earned the Pelicans their first section title since 1994.
For the third consecutive game, Aidan Murray and Charlie Livingstone were responsible for Pelham’s lone goal, and this one led to a 1-0 win over Pearl River in the Class A final on Friday night.
“We didn’t have the connection going early (in the season), but as the games went on, we started to get it going,” Livingstone said. “We’ve been assisting to each other left and right. In the Edgemont game (in the quarterfinals), it was me to him. At Byram Hills (in the semis), it was him to me. And here, Aidan just ran onto the ball and I slipped it through.”
Murray scored on a beautiful through ball from Livingstone in the 10th minute to give the fourth-seeded Pelicans (14-5-1) an early lead.
“We told him in the beginning, ‘Try to get an early goal, and we can hold it from there,’ ” senior midfielder Jefferson Santos said. “That’s what we did against Byram Hills, and that’s what we did here.”
Following Murray’s goal, the third-seeded Pirates (14-4-2) turned up the intensity and applied pressure on the Pelham defense throughout the game, but goalkeeper Vincent Mazzarro made eight saves for his third straight shutout.
“This game was a battle. I give them so much credit,” Murray said. “Those kids gave it everything that they had. I feel bad for them, but there can only be one winner. It was a great game.”
After the game, Pearl River coach Damon O’Keefe said that he regretted not starting defender Aidan Noonan, who came on shortly after Murray’s goal.
“Unfortunately, it took the goal to do that,” O’Keefe said. “I should have made the move quicker and put Aidan in. I should have started him.”
The second half featured tremendous back and forth action, with each team creating quality scoring chances. Pearl River’s Ethan Dowie hit the post in the 43rd minute, and teammate Tony Ortega hit the crossbar in the 58th.
The Pirates seemed to be getting to Pelham with their physical play, but it resulted in four yellow cards in the second half, including two for Noonan, which forced Pearl River to play one man down for the final 15 minutes.
“You could see they did their homework,” Livingstone said. “The first time that we played them, it was 2-0 and although they played a really competitive game, it was a lot more comfortable. Here, they had a strategy. We probably had the skill, but they had the physicality. They were meeting us on every challenge.”
Pearl River created chaos in front of the Pelicans’ goal and had a few late opportunities that looked like they had a chance to get in, but the Pelham defense did a great job of blocking shots. Otavio Basso got in front of a few of them, and Brendan Roche stepped in front of Brian Chiarello’s header in the final minute while Mazzarro was scrambling to get back in position.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Murray said of holding on for the 1-0 win. “I don’t know how many clearances that we had off the line. It didn’t seem like it was going to come, and it came. I can’t believe this is happening. It’s a dream come true.”
Next up, the Pelicans will play the Section 4 champion in the regional semifinals on Wednesday.
Photos by Peter Carr/The Journal News