Fordham wins first CHSAA state soccer title
Fordham Prep has a rich tradition of soccer excellence, highlighted by Archdiocesan and CHSAA Class AA intersectional titles, but the trophy case in Rose Hill was missing just one thing – a CHSAA state championship.
That’s no longer the case as the Rams made history Saturday night, defeating St. John the Baptist, 2-1, at Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University.
“We’ve been in a lot of championship games, we’ve been in the states before, we’ve had a lot of great players,” said Fordham Prep coach Pete McNamara, a St. John the Baptist alum. “I guess it would be the best trophy of all of them.”
Fordham Prep (13-3-5) has twice reached the state final – in 2005 and 2006 – but came up short each time. The Rams made sure that wouldn’t be the case again this year and Dylan Cope emphatically fired the first salvo, burying the rebound of Spencer Heitmann’s shot off the post to give his team a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Cope said. “Our senior year, we’re about to go to college and it’s a great memory to leave on.”
The Rams, which avenged a CHSAA Class AA intersectional championship loss by beating St. Francis Prep in the state semifinals Friday, maintained their one-goal lead through much of the match, absorbing some pressure from the Cougars.
But goalkeeper Mark Rajovic again came up huge. The sophomore made a diving save on Patrick Rowan’s header in the 25th minute, again hit the turf to deny Junior Rosero on a 33rd-minute free kick and saved Ian Stewart’s flicked header in the 67th minute.
“He’s always tested and he always comes up big in the end,” Fordham Prep senior defender Mark Kramarchuk said of Rajovic. “To be a sophomore and play against seniors, it’s great. The way he came out today, he just played so well for us.”
Heitmann, who McNamara called “fantastic” in the state tournament, essentially sealed the Rams first-ever state title, volleying in a cross by Liam Gallagher that deflected off a Baptist defender at the back post on a quick counter in the 73rd minute.
“It feels great,” Heitmann said. “I never thought it would happen.”
St. John the Baptist (12-4-3) wouldn’t go down quietly, though, pulling within a goal in the 77th minute on a low shot by Rosero. However, the Rams held on and celebrated on the turf at Belson Stadium for one last time.
“It’s huge,” Heitmann said. “We’re the first ones to do it and everyone is always going to remember this one.”
It was especially fitting for a group of seniors who joined the varsity as sophomores. McNamara touted them as special and on Saturday night they showed why, cementing their legacy at Fordham Prep.
“To win this is a great feeling,” Kramarchuk said. “To be a senior, to leave an impact on the school that will never be forgotten is just amazing.”
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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