ORANGEBURG — It’s become a tradition in recent years for Pearl River and Lakeland to play over Columbus Day weekend, but it’s been difficult to call it a rivalry due to the lopsided nature of the games.
The Hornets have dominated the series, but Pearl River senior Vincenzo Galvano sent a strong message to his team before Saturday’s game at Tappan Zee High in the second annual Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge.
“Since my freshman year, we could never beat these guys,” Galvano said. “Finally for my senior year, I just communicated to the rest of the guys, and I said, ‘Guys, this is my senior year and this is the time to do it. I need this, and we need this.’ ”
With both teams currently ranked in the top 20 statewide in Class A, the game had some extra buzz and lived up to the hype.
The Pirates made a statement with a 3-1 win to improve to 13-0-1 and establish themselves as the clear favorite for a section title, giving coach Damon O’Keefe his first win over Lakeland in eight tries.
“We’ve been thinking about this game for a long time now,” Pearl River junior Sean Coughlan said.
“It was a huge challenge, and we knew that coming into this game,” Galvano said. “We decided we need to get on this kid, make sure that he doesn’t score and take him off his game. Myself and my team did a great job of doing that, and thanks to that, space opened up out in front and we were able to put three in the net.”
Denis opened the game with a few quality chances, including hitting the crossbar in the 16th minute when the game was still scoreless. Eight minutes later, Coughlan drew a penalty kick and buried it to drastically shift momentum in the Pirates’ favor.
“It was huge,” Coughlan said. “Johnny hit the crossbar, and if that goes in, it’s a different game. … We really came together once we figured out that we could stop Johnny. We just played our game and found the goals.”
In the 52nd minute, Kevin Doorley cleaned up his own rebound to extend Pearl River’s lead to 2-0, while the Pirates’ defense – which has surrendered just five goals through its first 14 games – allowed Lakeland to take only one shot on goal in first 30 minutes of the second half.
“It’s an all senior line, so we know each other well,” Galvano said. “It’s our second year playing together, therefore we know each other, and all we do is keep supporting, supporting and just play each other for the full 80 (minutes).”
The Hornets (8-3-1) finally connected in the 72nd minute when Dhruv Girgenti found Nick Foci to cut the deficit to 2-1, but Craig MacDonald fed Coughlan on a two-on-one breakaway with less than two minutes remaining to seal the long-awaited win.
“The ball popped out in the midfield, and someone sent a great through ball to Craig,” Coughlan said. “I saw that there was only one defender, so I just sprinted as hard as I could to get to the goal. Craig did his job and sent it past the goalie, so I just tapped it in.”
As one of only two unbeaten teams remaining in Section 1, Pearl River is in strong position to grab the No. 1 seed in Class A, where the target will surely be on its back.
But after losing in last year’s section final, the Pirates are embracing the challenge.
“I like that,” Galvano said. “Being undefeated gives the guys more of an edge when we play and it kind of makes the other teams afraid of us. That’s what we need.”
Suffern 1, New Rochelle 0: In a Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge game at Tappan Zee, Zac Lloyd scored a header on long throw-in from Devin Connell in the 58th minute. Matt Ryan made eight saves for the Mounties, who picked up the win on coach Bob Walkley’s birthday.
“Coach Walkley is nicknamed ‘The American Pitbull,’ ” Lloyd said. “It was a really good win, and I think we all played our hearts out for him. He’s a very good coach – always telling us to do better and giving us confidence. He’s just an amazing coach.”
Suffern (6-4-2) was outshot by the Huguenots (7-4), 19-7, but Lloyd made his opportunity count thanks to a perfectly placed throw from Connell.
“Devin had a long throw-in, and I flicked it over the goalie’s arms,” the sophomore said. “It’s just like another corner every time there’s a throw-in (from Connell).”
Mamaroneck 0, North Rockland 0, 2 OT: In a Westchester vs. Rockland Challenge game at Tappan Zee, Brendan Madden made 10 saves for the Red Raiders and Thomas Orgielewicz made six saves for the Tigers.
It was the second straight year in which the two teams have gone to overtime at this event.
“I just think it’s two good teams, and tactically we match up well with one another,” Mamaroneck coach Rich Becker said. “They like to defend deep and look for the counter attack, and we like to possess the ball and try to penetrate in through the midfield. Tonight they opened up the game a little bit more than we expected. I figured they were going to sit deeper than they did. They came out and played very direct, obviously looking for their restart opportunities. It was a tough game.”
Mamaroneck (7-2-3) had the better of possession for most of the second half and had several opportunities in the final 15 minutes of regulation, but Madden came up big on a few occasions.
North Rockland (7-5-3) probably had its best stretch during the first overtime period, taking five shots in 10 minutes, and then Danny Lopez hit a crossbar in the 98th minute.
“We’ve had stretches like that all year where we just come up empty,” North Rockland coach Chris Dwyer said. “It’s been ongoing every single game, but the kids are putting themselves in good spots. We’re just not finishing, and it’s been all year. I’m hoping that at some point, the soccer gods are going to help us out.”
Mamaroneck senior striker Juan Giraldo left the game for a portion of the second half due to a leg injury, but returned in overtime, although he looked hobbled.
The results in Class AA have been all over the place this season, and Becker said he expects to see more wild action once the playoffs begin.
“The kids were saying today that anyone can beat anyone on any given day, and it’s never been truer, I don’t think, than it is this year,” he said. “For Scarsdale to go up (Friday) and tie Arlington, and everyone else is beating each other up. For New Rochelle to come over here and lose to Suffern after dominating for a little bit – anyone can beat anyone this year. AA is wide open with, I would say I think 10 or 12 teams could be in the final four, easily.”
Best of the rest: Bennett Kramer had a goal and two assists to help visiting Byram Hills upset three-time defending Class A state champion Jericho in a 3-0 win. … Joseph Landicino had two assists in host Yorktown’s 2-0 win over Putnam Valley. … Matt Kelly scored twice, including the golden goal in the 95th minute of host Panas’ 2-1 overtime win against Croton-Harmon. … Rich Barrios made four saves for Rye Neck and Patrick Killion made three saves for Pleasantville in a 0-0 tie.
Here are all of the results that we received from Saturday:
Pearl River 3, Lakeland 1
Suffern 1, New Rochelle 0
Mamaroneck 0, North Rockland 0, 2 OT
Byram Hills 3, Jericho 0
Yorktown 2, Putnam Valley 0
Panas 2, Croton-Harmon 1, OT
Rye Neck 0, Pleasantville 0
Photos and video by Peter Carr/The Journal News