Jesse Rodrigues didn’t take a peek at the Belson Stadium scoreboard to see how little time was remaining on the clock. His mission was to put the ball into the net.
Rodrigues stormed down the right side and unleashed a curling shot into the bottom right corner of the net with only 15.6 seconds remaining to lift Archbishop Molloy to a thrilling 1-0 double overtime victory in the CHSAA Class AA Intersectional boys soccer championship Saturday night at Belson Stadium.
“Honestly I had no idea how much time was on the clock,” an excited Rodriguez said. “I was so focused on the moment and I knew I had to finish the ball and that’s what we did.”
Molloy (12-1-5), ranked No. 1 in New York City by MSG Varsity, earned its 15th league title while avenging a 4-0 defeat to the Rams in last year’s championship. The program will competes for the CHSAA state title in a semifinal matchup scheduled Friday at 7 p.m. against Chaminade at Belson Stadium.
The game-winner for Rodrigues, the team’s leading scorer this season, came when Molloy continued to apply offensive pressure to the Fordham Prep defenders under a minute remaining. Dante Giraldi passed the ball to Rodrigues, who deked past a defender inside the 18-yard box and sailed his shot just past the outstretched hands of Fordham Prep goalkeeper Will Marment for the game-winner.
“When he’s coming down that line you feel like he can score anytime,” said Molloy senior goalkeeper Stephen Deely.
“We waited so long for this. From year to year. I wasn’t so happy the other years and we couldn’t feel like this again and we wanted it. I love my team. This jersey here is special and thank God."
The previous 80 minutes of regulation had both teams create solid scoring chances, but Molloy got a big break when Fordham Prep’s Sam Davidson hit the top of the bar on a penalty kick in the 58th minute that could have given the Rams a one-goal lead.
With time ticking down in the second overtime, Molloy coach Andy Kostel actually began discussing the possibilities with his coaching staff on who would be the five players to take penalty kicks. Rodrigues would make that discussion moot.
“Fordham played a great game. There was opportunities on both sides. Both goalies made very good saves,” Kostel said. “I think both Jesse and Stephen really picked up. They did what we had to do. I told them that the night before. They played tremendous.”
The game could have swung Fordham Prep’s way when they was awarded a penalty kick on a late challenge inside the Molloy 18-yard box midway in the second half. Rams top scorer Alex Canicatti would normally take the kick, but the senior asked out of his normal responsibilities prior to the game because he is teammates with Deely on a club soccer team.
Davidson, a sophomore midfielder, struck the ball hard off the top of the crossbar and the game remained a scoreless tie. Rams coach Pete McNamara believes he made a mistake not clearly dictating to the team what player should have been selected to take the chance.
McNamara said his team played quality soccer throughout the game but could ultimately not find the net.
“I did not plan on putting the pressure on a sophomore, Sam Davidson. That was not the intent. That happened on the field,” McNamara said. “When the kid is confident and he wants to take it, you let him go. We’ve been putting in a ton of them in practice and Sam hits good penalties in practice.”
Fordham Prep, ranked No. 2 in New York City by MSG Varsity, could have won it in the first overtime yet Deely was on hand to save an good-looking volley by Canicatti in front of the net and Luke McNamara’s close range shot was pushed away fa few minutes into the second overtime session.
The Rams still have a chance for silverware Friday in taking on Canisius, the Diocese of Buffalo representative, at 5 p.m.
“It’s definitely not over,” Canicatti said. “I think it’s a step and it’s learning experience and we would be motivated to do better in states.”