ARMONK It’s been 10 years since the Class A boys soccer champion hailed from Rockland County, but the drought is guaranteed to end this season.
Top-seeded Pearl River was expected to get to the title game, and the Pirates took care of business with a 2-1 win over No. 12 Eastchester in the semifinals on Thursday.
You can consider Tappan Zee the party crasher.
The third-seeded Dutchmen were matched up against No. 2 Byram Hills, the defending champion and a popular pick to repeat. But TZ showed no sign of being intimidated by the perennial power, forcing overtime on a second-half goal from Chris Mulqueen and then shocking Section 1 with Lukas Puris’ golden goal for a 2-1 win.
“I was drifting towards the far post and then James (Hennessy) called my name,” Puris said of the winning goal. “He said, ‘Lukas, get towards the middle.’ We’ve done this play before in training and tried to execute it in games, but it’s never come through until now. I made a run from the middle towards the near post and he played the perfect ball. I was there to finish it.”
The Bobcats jumped out to an early lead on a goal from Jack Beer in the fourth minute, but less than one minute later, they caught a bad break. Senior striker Ben Weinstein crumbled to the ground clutching his right knee and was unable to return.
Searching for a second goal, Byram moved Beer from his natural central midfield position to play Weinstein’s spot at striker in the second half. But the Dutchmen were able to bottle him up and began to dominate play in the midfield.
“We knew we had to guard Jack Beer,” Hennessy said. “After he scored that goal, I think we all knew that we couldn’t let that happen again. Jack Samett played an unbelievable game. He had to guard him the whole game and we really came together as a team.”
The last team from Rockland County to win a title in Class A was Nyack in 2005. The only other team from Rockland to make it to the final since was Pearl River in 2013.
Tappan Zee and Pearl River will meet for the championship at Arlington High on Saturday at 10 a.m.
“We’re very, very excited,” Puris said. “I can speak for the whole team when I say we can’t wait. They’re our rivals and to meet them in any final is surreal.”
Player of the game: Lukas Puris, Tappan Zee — Aside from the obvious – you know, scoring the game-winning goal in a very clutch spot – the senior striker was a pest throughout the game. He’s been the Dutchmen’s leading scorer all season and came through in a big way in the 93rd minute.
Turning point: Mulqueen’s equalizer in the 52nd minute changed the feel of the entire game. Hennessy had his shot blocked, but Mulqueen was in the perfect spot to bury the rebound. TZ controlled possession for the rest of the second half.
“That really reenergized us,” Puris said.
Stat line: Tappan Zee (15-2-2) — Mulqueen and Puris scored and Hennessy had an assist. John Connor made eight saves. Byram Hills (15-3-1) — Beer scored and Matt Groll made six saves.
Quotable: “We knew it was the biggest challenge of our year,” Hennessy said. “Obviously, we took a lot into consideration after that heartbreaking loss (to Byram Hills on Sept. 27) on our own field, but we knew that we played them well. We knew they were the No. 1 team in the state, and if we could compete with them, we could compete with anyone. After that game, we weren’t scared to play anyone.”
More semifinal results from Thursday:
Arlington 2, Mamaroneck 0: In a Class AA semifinal at No. 1 Arlington, Vinny Colantuono scored twice and Ryan Wilson recorded his 16th shutout of the year. The Admirals (18-1) will host No. 7 Yorktown in the section final on Saturday at noon.
Pearl River 2, Eastchester 1: In a Class A semifinal at No. 1 Pearl River, freshman Dennis Flemming scored the winner and Mark Russell scored in the third minute for the Pirates (17-2).
Rye Neck 1, Edgemont 0, 2 OT: In a Class B semifinal at No. 3 Edgemont, Luis Galeano scored the winning goal in the final minute of the second overtime period and Tom Bermingham made six saves. No. 7 Rye Neck (12-5-2) will play No. 4 Hastings in the section final at Arlington on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Hastings 0, Blind Brook 0, 2 OT: In a Class B semifinal at No. 4 Hastings, the Yellow Jackets advanced on penalty kicks (3-2). Alex Bourgeois, Will Berritt and John Ceballos converted their penalty kicks for Hastings (15-2-2).