Rams earn revenge in CHSAA state semifinals
Fordham Prep lost to St. Francis Prep in the regular season finale and, most importantly, in the CHSAA Class AA intersectional final.
Sebastian Palomino wanted to make sure history didn’t repeat itself and the junior midfielder had a little help from Mother Nature as the Rams earned some revenge in a 1-0 win in the CHSAA state semifinals at Belson Stadium Friday night.
“We lost twice against them and no way we were going to lose a third time. Not here,” Palomino said. “We learned from our mistakes from last game.”
Palomino was trying to find a teammate at the back post with his 32nd-minute corner kick, but the ball got into the jet stream and George Thomatos’ attempted headed clearance went off goalkeeper Steven Reid and in for the game’s lone goal.
“I was going for the second post so someone could go on it,” Palomino said. “The wind took the ball and I was fortunate enough to score that goal…The wind was a big factor in the goal.”
The Rams had a pair of chances to tack onto their lead early in the second half, but Richard Moesner’s open shot in the box was saved by Reid in the 46th minute and Spencer Heitmann’s attempt four minutes later was stopped and went out for a corner.
On the other end of the field, St. Francis Prep (17-1-1) maintained possession for large portions of the second half, but had few scoring chances in the attacking third.
It was a much better performance than in the CHSAA Class AA final on Sunday, according to Rams coach Pete McNamara.
“We matched up better this time, we played better, the kids who were supposed to show up showed up today and played much harder defensively,” he said. “They worked harder than St. Francis today and they deserved it.”
The Terriers had two chances opportunities to equalize in the final 10 minutes, but Rams goalkeeper Mark Rajovic came off his line to collect a ball played into the box by Chris Joseph and then dived to his right to save Jason Gonzalez’s free kick from 22 yards out four minutes from full time.
“It feels great,” Rajovic said. “All this week in practice we were saying we were going to get them back and we got here and got them back.”
While St. Francis Prep, ranked No. 2 in New York City by MSG Varsity, celebrated its first city title since 2006 on Sunday, the Terriers hopes of completing an undefeated season with a third championship went up in smoke.
“I’ve always said the state tournament is gravy,” St. Francis Prep coach Franco Purificato said. “We strive to get that city championship. That’s what goes up in the rafters at Prep and it’s going up. I’m not upset. We had an amazing season.”
No. 4 Fordham Prep (12-3-5) advances to Saturday’s state final and will take on St. John the Baptist, which defeated St. Joe’s Collegiate from Buffalo on penalty kicks after 100 scoreless minutes.
“They know they’re good enough to play with anybody,” McNamara said. “I think feel they’re just as good to be No. 1 in the city, as well. I think they want to be No. 1 in the state. The city is a big place, but the state is a lot bigger.”
The Rams have a chance to make history and win their first state crown after back-to-back defeats in the final in 2005 and 2006.
“That would be huge,” Rajovic said. “It would be the biggest plaque at Fordham Prep.”
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