These are always difficult to do, but I spent some time last night breaking down the brackets and coming up with my predictions. I took a few early upsets to keep things interesting, but I ended up taking three out of four No. 1 seeds — with one champ that might surprise some. Feel free to leave your picks in the comments section!
Never before can I remember going into sectionals thinking that so many teams had a chance to win it. It’s as wide open as it has been in years, but somehow, I found myself picking a familiar face as the champion. For starters, I think that Arlington has more favorable route to the finals than some. Fox Lane has been hot of late and puts up lots of goals, but the Admirals are a stout defensive team that has been down this road before. And no matter how well John Jay-East Fishkill is playing, Arlington always seems to have its number, and having that game on its home turf will be a big advantage. And if the Admirals are able to make it to the section final, that game will at home, too. The Dutchess league has been the strongest in the section for the past few years, and Arlington has been its best team. I’m going with the three-peat.
I’m taking North Rockland over Scarsdale as an upset pick early because I think the Red Raiders will make it difficult for Scarsdale to score, as they do with most of their opponents. North Rockland has a knack for showing up at this time of year, and I think it will keep it close enough to pull it off. First goal will be key in that game. I like a battle-tested Greeley squad to take down the less experienced Huguenots in the first round, and I also like the Quakers to end Port Chester’s season for the second straight year. They always seem to play PC tough. I know Mamaroneck is itching for another shot at Greeley after the Quakers upset them last season in the semis. I think they’ll get it, and I see the Tigers coming out on top thanks to one of the most balanced rosters in the section. That will give us the section championship game that most anticipated seeing last season, and I’d love to see it.
CLASS A — BREAKING IT DOWN…
I was really tempted to take Byram Hills over Pearl River in the semifinals. The Bobcats are a well-coached, traditionally strong team that has been heating up at the perfect time. But the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t help but feel that this is the Pirates’ year. They’ve been down this road before, and came up just short in last year’s section final. Since then, they haven’t lost a game, and they’ve allowed just five goals all season. And Byram is a team that plays on a wide turf field, which would give Pearl River an advantage since they’d be playing on the Pirates’ small grass field. Their back line is all seniors, and their offensive attack is diverse with about six different players who spread out the scoring equally. I think Pearl River proved that it was the team to beat with its 3-1 win over Lakeland a week and a half ago, and they’re playing a very team-oriented brand of soccer that will make them a tough team to beat. It won’t be easy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like Byram or Lakeland is able to prove me wrong, but I’m taking the Pirates.
One of my sleeper picks this year is Yorktown. The Huskers have a handful of capable scorers that have been putting up bunches of goals late in the season and they’re on a side of the bracket that doesn’t have much playoff experience. I think they’ll be able to outscore Tappan Zee and then I went out on a limb by taking them over Hen Hud. Byram-Pelham in the quarters would be another must-see after Pelham knocked out Byram last season.
CLASS B — BREAKING IT DOWN…
Maybe the most difficult game for me to pick in any class was the Irvington-Valhalla game in the B quarterfinals. The Bulldogs have been as consistent as any team in the section and have looked like a clear favorite for weeks now. They have several weapons and should be considered the team to beat. But they got a very tough draw for a No. 1 seed, and I’ve heard through the grapevine that they may be without one of their best players in the quarters due to yellow card rules.
Valhalla was the top-ranked team in the class for a portion of the season and recently upset Spackenkill, which was been undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state at the time. The Vikings played an extremely tough schedule and have arguably the most dynamic player in the bracket in Kaio DaSilva, who usually leads the defense but has moved up late in games and scored five goals this year to either tie or give Valhalla the lead. I’m shaking things up and picking the upset. I don’t know if many would consider Edgemont over Hastings a major upset with as well as the Panthers have played, and Bronxville is another team that has been tested and finished strong. But Valhalla beat up on Bronxville in a 4-0 win already this season, and if the Vikings get that far, I think momentum will be on their side.
You would think that a class with only three teams would be easy to pick, but that wasn’t the case with either of these games. Hamilton is having a resurgent season with 10 regular season wins, but I’m taking Haldane because the Blue Devils already won at Hamilton this season and will get to play this one on their home field. It’s tempting to take Haldane to repeat, but Schechter has been playing well from start to finish this season and has been winning by wide margins thanks to an offensive attack led by Ari Leffell. After winning it all in 2012, I’m picking the Lions to get back on top. The key will be staying sharp during a long lay-off until the final.