Both times that Irvington was awarded a penalty kick in the second half of its 2-1 win over three-time defending Class B champ Blind Brook on Wednesday, the Bulldogs summoned Max Kandler from his defensive position to take the kick.
And on both occasions, the senior — who spent the previous two years playing football — delivered.
“I think I’m better under pressure, as opposed to practice,” Kandler said. “I like the responsibility. I work well under pressure. I’m just grateful to my teammates for getting in those positions and handing it over to me, and letting me knock it away.”
Irvington (2-0-1) had a handful of close calls towards the end of the first half, but couldn’t convert until after the break.
“We definitely had a bunch of opportunities that we should have finished,” senior striker Matt Casadei said. “Everybody knew at halftime that we had a good chance of winning this game. We thought we had made the chances, and we knew it was just a matter of time before we put them away.”
Less than three minutes into the second half, a foul inside of the box gave Kandler his first opportunity, and he buried it.
In the 56th minute, Casadei shook loose on a breakaway before being upended by Blind Brook goalkeeper Noah Lubin, drawing a yellow card and setting up Kandler’s second penalty-kick goal.
“I just saw the opening, took one touch, and the keeper was out,” Casadei said. “Before I knew it, I was on my face, right on the ground. I was trying to score. I wasn’t even thinking about trying to draw a penalty kick.”
In the 78th minute, Joao Souza scored on a penalty kick for the Trojans, who dropped to 1-3-1.
At the moment, the Bulldogs are looking like more of a contender in Class B.
“We had a rough start with (a tie against) Sleepy (Hollow), but moving forward, I think we have a strong group of guys,” Kandler said. “I think we have the possibility of going all the way.”
Here are more of my thoughts and observations from the game:
• Perhaps the two most impactful players for Irvington today were two guys who didn’t play last year. Kandler was on the football team, while Casadei was recovering from ankle surgery. Casadei was playing up top and has a high motor. He’s getting the first crack at replacing last year’s Section 1 small school player of the year, Ben Ovetsky. “It’s tough shoes to fill,” he said. “Ben Ovetsky, he’s a legend around here now. He was a pretty great player, but I was hurt all last year, so I watched everybody play. I tried to watch him and learn a little bit. It’s going to be a big responsibility, trying to step up for the team and fill that space, but I think I can handle it.”
• The first 15-20 minutes of the game were pretty evenly played, but for the final 60 or so, it was mostly Irvington. The Bulldogs controlled possession and created much more opportunities, outshooting Blind Brook 16-9. “Whenever the game starts off, we’re trying to get the jitters out,” Casadei said. “Everyone is trying to open up for each other and people get a little hesitant to make plays. Once we get into our rhythm, it’s a lot easier to knock the ball, and make plays and runs.”
• It’s rare that you see a game where all of the goals are scored via PKs — at least a game in which multiple goals are scored — and I asked Kandler about his strategy in those situations. “I choose (the direction of the kick) way ahead of time,” he said. “Right when I see the PK, which way I’m going, and I stick to it. I don’t like to go back and forth.”
• In total, Bulldogs coach Patrick DiBenedetto told me that he has 14 seniors back, so while replacing Ovetsky has been difficult, they believe that they have the depth to get it done. “I love it,” Kandler said of all of the experienced players.
• It’s still too early to count Blind Brook out, but the Trojans have been struggling. At the moment, Irvington, Valhalla, Edgemont and Bronxville look like the top teams in Class B. Who should be No. 1 in the next set of rankings?
Best of the rest: Coach Ron Hendrie picked up his 300th career victory in North Salem’s 3-0 win over visiting Putnam Valley. Miguel Tunas recorded a hat trick. … Liam Pettit scored twice and Victor Cruz had three assists in host Yonkers’ 3-1 win over Lincoln. … Thomas Shalvey had a goal and an assist in Tappan Zee’s 3-1 win over visiting Spring Valley. … Diego Arias and Dann Quezada each scored for host Sleepy Hollow and Shon Taniuchi and Kenta Wakimoto each scored for Keio in a 2-2 tie. … Alexander Goldman had two goals and two assists in Edgemont’s 6-2 win over visiting Ardsley. … Jose Guzman scored twice in host Port Chester’s 6-0 win over Harrison. … Hector Sandoval had a hat trick in Nyack’s 3-0 win over visiting Albertus Magnus. … Jonathan Kyriakidis had a goal and an assist on his birthday in host Pleasantville’s 2-1 win over Westlake. … Takuno Nishimura had a goal and an assist in Rye Neck’s 3-1 win over host Dobbs Ferry. … Ari Leffell scored twice in Solomon Schechter’s 2-0 win at Hamilton. … Brian Barrenechea, Javier Valencia and Edgar Zepeda each had a goal and an assist in New Rochelle’s 6-2 win over visiting Mount Vernon. … Ciaran Bennett and Miles Robertson each scored in host Pelham’s 2-0 win over Eastchester. … Miguel Perez scored in Hen Hud’s 1-0 win over visiting Panas. … Juma Byabusha scored twice in Ossining’s 5-1 win at Peekskill. … Zac Lloyd scored with 18 seconds to go in the first half of Suffern’s 1-0 win over visiting North Rockland. … Ryan Monasch scored in the 30th minute of John Jay’s 1-0 win at Fox Lane. … Mike Donnelly had two goals and an assist in Kennedy’s 4-0 win over Pawling. … Martin Saljanin scored fro host Brewster and Willie Yormack scored for Greeley in a 1-1 tie.
Here are all of the scores that we received from Wednesday:
Ketcham 3, Mahopac 0
John Jay-East Fishkill 5, Carmel 1
Hen Hud 1, Panas 0
Arlington B 1, Haldane 0
North Salem 3, Putnam Valley 0
Brewster 1, Horace Greeley 1, 2 OT
John Jay 1, Fox Lane 0
New Rochelle 6, Mount Vernon 2
Ramapo 1, Clarkstown North 0
Suffern 1, North Rockland 0
Nyack 3, Albertus Magnus 0
Tappan Zee 3, Spring Valley 1
Port Chester 6, Harrison 0
Pelham 2, Eastchester 0
Arlington 2, Lourdes 0
Yonkers 3, Lincoln 1
Valhalla 8, Croton-Harmon 0
Pleasantville 2, Westlake 1
Keio 2, Sleepy Hollow 2, 2 OT
Edgemont 6, Ardsley 2
Irvington 2, Blind Brook 1
Rye Neck 3, Dobbs Ferry 1
Solomon Schechter 2, Hamilton 0
Mamaroneck 1, White Plains 1, OT
Ossining 5, Peekskill 1
Kennedy 4, Pawling 0
Video by Vincent Z. Mercogliano/The Journal News