By Robert Cole
St. Francis Prep boys’ soccer beat Fordham Prep in a classic at St. John’s University, avenging a regular season loss to the Rams with a 2-1 victory to capture a spot in this year’s CHSAA AA Class Championship game.
“It’s always a war when we play Fordham Prep, tactically they played a great game, the kids played their hearts out on both sides,” Terriers coach Franco Purificato said. “I have to give it to Fordham Prep, they had us on the ropes the entire game, but we just eked this one out.”
Fordham Prep started the game playing a very aggressive style of soccer, keeping the action in the Terriers’ half of the field. But St. Francis Prep’s pressure defense prevented the ball from reaching the net and kept Fordham off the scoreboard in the first half.
The Terriers eventually moved the ball across the midfield line to place their own pressure on the Rams’ defense. St. Francis Prep nearly scored in the first-half with 12:49 remaining, when John Tagios broke away from the defense, finding himself one-on-one against the Fordham Prep goalie Tim Norris, who was able to beat Tagios to the ball to make the save.
St. Francis Prep missed another opportunity to break the scoreless tie on a corner kick with 3:02 left in the half. This time, the Fordham defense banded together to clear the ball out of the box. The half ended in a tense 0-0 score.
The Rams broke the scoreless tie with a goal by Ed Perez-Palaez seven minutes into the second half, but the Terriers turned up the pressure in an attempt to score the equalizer. They succeeded with 25:24 left to play on a goal by John Tagios, who saw his shot hit the back of the net.
Both teams battled up and down the field until St. Francis scored the game-winner with 3:32 remaining, as Guido Modano knocked in a corner kick by Visilios Brismovalis..
“I was just thinking that I had to put the ball in for my team,” said Modano. “I just wanted us to go on to the championship.”
Fordham would grind out one more opportunity to send the game into extra time, taking a shot that bounced off the right post, keeping the score at 2-1, which proved to be the final, setting the stage for St. Francis to take on Regis in the championship match Sunday at St. John’s.
The Terriers played another tension-filled game against Regis that ended in a 1-1 tie after regulation and extra time. Regis claimed the championship title after winning the shootout 5-3.
Despite losing in the championship game on penalties, the Terriers had much to be proud of on their run to the final.