LaGRANGEVILLE – Manuel Arango was ready to embrace teammate Sean Coughlan, who he thought had just scored the ever-important first goal for Pearl River in Saturday’s Class A boys soccer final against rival Tappan Zee.
As it turned it, the goal belonged to Arango, who was mobbed by the rest of the Pirates.
“I usually look for Sean Coughlan whenever I have a chance, but it just happened to go over his head,” Arango said. “I was really surprised. I thought he flicked it in. But as I was standing there waiting for someone’s reaction to celebrate, he turned around and pointed at me. Everyone started pointing at me and that’s when I knew it was my goal. I was in awe.”
TZ made a strong push following Arango’s tally, but a Dutchmen goal never came. Top-seeded Pearl River put the game away with two second-half goals for a 3-0 win at Arlington High and its first section title since 1995.
The Pirates will receive a bye into the regional final next Saturday at Lakeland High.
“We had to (score first) because the last time we played them, they scored first,” Coughlan said. “And when they play defensive, they’re almost impossible to breakdown. So we knew if we scored first then they would have to attack more and move (top defender) James (Hennessy) up.”
Pearl River withstood the pressure from TZ late in the first half and got back on track after halftime, with Ian Haley scoring in the 65th minute and Mark Russell sealing the win with a goal in the 74th.
The title marks the first for a Rockland County team in Class A since Nyack in 2005 and the first for Pearl River coach Damon O’Keefe in his 13 years at the helm.
“It makes the win so much better. It really does,” Coughlan said of beating TZ. “They beat us once and we beat them (in the regular season), so confidence was high on both sides. But it enabled us to come up with a good game plan and we stuck with that.”
Player of the game: Manuel Arango, Pearl River — An attacking offensive player for the Pirates in years past, the senior unselfishly moved to center back this season to anchor the defense. Not only did he played a huge role in shutting out Tappan Zee, but Arango also contributed a goal and an assist, taking many of Pearl River’s free kicks.
Turning point: Despite relentless pressure from Tappan Zee at the end of the first half, the Pirates weathered the storm. Dolan Ocasal made five of his nine saves in the final 20 minutes of first half.
“I did get a little nervous then, but I knew if we got through that, we’d be OK,” Coughlan said.
Stat line: Pearl River (18-2) — Arango had a goal and an assist and Haley and Russell each scored. Ocasal made nine saves. Tappan Zee (15-3-2) — John Connor made six saves.
Quotable: “Two years ago, when I was in my first year on the team, we lost to Pelham in a 2-1 game (in the section final),” Arango said. “We were devastated. Everyone the next year was telling us that we had to get it done, so we’re doing it for everyone who couldn’t get it done since 1995. Everyone had our backs supporting us and we couldn’t do it without them.”