Sophomore cornerback Valerie Gandlin caught a last-minute interception Monday in the opposing end zone at New Dorp’s Sal Somma Field to seal No. 1 Tottenville’s 12-6 PSAL City Championship against No. 3 Susan Wagner.
The Pirates ended their perfect season with a 15-0 record. The win also marked the third time this season the Tots defeated the Falcons, who were the defending champions, after overcoming the Pirates 6-0 in 2019.
The Pirates, six points ahead in the hard-fought tie, saw Susan Wagner run goal-line to goal-line in the closing minutes for a chance to become city champions again. That was largely thanks to second quarterback Alyssa Badalamenti, who took it herself for a 28-yard rush in second and eighth to put the Falcons to six points within 10 yards.
That’s when Gandlin, who, according to Tottenville head coach Joseph Sarno, didn’t start playing corners until the playoffs, made the game and brought it home.
“She’s had a huge impact every time,” says Sarno. “For our defense we try to stay as sharp as possible and Valerie is a perfect accent for that. That she can think up this big piece just fits.”
“It was blurry, I can’t even remember the piece. I just tried it, and then I realized it was game-ending,” noted an exuberant Gandlin, who took the time to give her props to Sarno, who took over the program earlier in the season.
However, it was senior Jenna Burgos who shaped the entire game and was therefore recognized as the Most Outstanding Player of the Championship Game. Burgos stayed on the field for all snaps, recording 18 rushing yards, 24 receiving yards, and 99 passing yards (including each of the team’s two touchdowns), while also catching a pass.
Sarno approached her mid-game as quarterback, and she responded by throwing touchdowns for 13 and 19 yards to break a scoreless stalemate for most of the first half.
“In games like this, girls like Jenna really matter. But it’s also all the other girls doing big plays that usually go unnoticed,” Sarno continued. “It’s the hardest thing in the world to beat great teams twice. So having to beat you (Wagner) a third time is pretty much impossible. These girls kinda made it and I’m so proud of them.”