LAGRANGEVILLE — It was a long and agonizing wait, but Haldane finally got another shot at Solomon Schechter in the Class C Section 1 title game.
“A lot of players – especially the seniors – had been waiting for it for the entire year,” junior striker Aidan Draper said. “This is the game that everyone prepared for; this is the game that everyone was waiting for. And I couldn’t ask for a better finish.”
The Lions beat Haldane to win a title last season, but the Blue Devils returned the favor on Sunday with a 2-0 win, capturing their first championship since 2010.
They scored twice in a two-minute span in the first half, which put them in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game.
“I told my boys, ‘If we come out here and score in the first 5-10 minutes, we’re going to win this game,’ ” Haldane coach Ahmed Dwidar said. “That’s been all year. If we score first, we finish strong.”
Haldane (11-6-1) caught a break in the 15th minute when the Schechter defense misplayed a cross and it ended up in the back of its net as an own goal.
“A goal is a goal,” senior midfielder Jay Marchese said. “We’ll take anything. I didn’t think it was going in at first, but it bounced in off of one of their kids.”
Ramsey Hietmann shook loose and ripped a shot, but it was saved by Lions goalkeeper Ben Burton. Hietmann stayed with it and collected the rebound to get off a second shot on a wide open net, but a Schechter defender stepped in and stopped it with his hand, resulting in a red card.
“I probably would have done the same thing,” Draper said. “The player dove and touched it with his hand, but he was just trying to save a goal, and he did. You’d much rather get a red card than allow a goal.”
Draper took the ensuing penalty kick and buried it to give Haldane a 2-0 lead.
“I’ve never seen a goalie move so far to one side,” Draper said. “I just kind of went with my instincts and put it right down the middle.”
As a result of the red card, Schechter (9-6) was forced to play the rest of the game down a man, and the Blue Devils’ defense was able to clamp down.
“We had to keep our composure,” Marchese said. “Our defense has been lockdown all year, and we shut their top two kids (Ari Leffell and Rafi Dodo) down to come out on top.”
Next up, Haldane will play Section 9 champ S.S. Seward in the regional semifinals at Arlington on Wednesday at 6:15 p.m.
Photos by Ricky Flores/The Journal News