The old way of thinking in football says it’s difficult to beat an opponent three times in one season. The task can become even more difficult for the third time in a playoff eliminator.
The Tottenville Pirates girls’ flag football team proved this Thursday at the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn that the reigning city champions Pirates, who lost twice to New Dorp in the regular season and had to settle for the No. 13 in the postseason, are the top down-seeded Central Cougars, 26-13, to secure a berth in the PSAL championship game.
The Pirates meet Susan Wagner at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Aviator, who defeated Madison 27-0 in Thursday’s other semifinal, in a rematch of last year’s title match.
“New Dorp is a burgeoning team and Charlie (App) has done a great job transforming their program,” said Pirate head coach Joe Sarno. “But our girls were ready to play today; They wanted this game and they want to defend the title.”
The Pirate defense set the tone early and often, as the game plan clearly consisted of disrupting New Dorp’s deadly pitch-and-catch combination of QB Audreyana Mulea and wideout Allison Gandlin.
Her speed, discipline and aggression forced Mulea to be constantly uncomfortable as rushers Sarah Lanzante, Amanda Andreano and Mary Wigren (two sacks) lived in the offensive backfield all afternoon.
“Gandlin and Mulea are incredible players and the main reason for their two wins against us,” said Sarno. “We knew that if we controlled them we would succeed and I’m proud of the performance of the girls on both sides of the ball.”
Controlled would be an understatement. The Pirate D defeated the talented Junior Mulea three times (twice with opportunistic balls) in the first half and the winners went 20-0 up at the break. Tottenville had paydirt on three of their four first-half possessions, while ND had just two first downs on their four first-half drives.
Justine Lyle threw two touchdowns in the first half and also reached the end zone with a run to fuel the offense. Andreano and Jessica Finley were the recipients of those points in the first half.
“We definitely used some anger and panache to get us going,” explained Lyle, a sophomore, who added a TD in the second half and added 103 through-air yards to the game. “We know they are a good team and that we could play better (than in the first two games), we just had to stay together and play our game. I’m looking forward to playing Wagner for the championship; They are a great team.”
“We always preach the next-play mentality – if something goes wrong, it’s okay to move on,” Sarno claimed. “It’s our big thing on and off the field and these girls are living proof of that.
“I’m close to Bash (SW coach Bashkim Pelinkovic). He has a great program, we were both excited and I’m looking forward to a great game. The game quality on the island is the best in town and we prove that year after year.”
EXTRA POINTS: Wigren, Lanzante, Madison Fried and Valerie Gandlin had tips for Tottenville. JoJo Borgognone (two PATs) also scored a touchdown for Tottenville. Sofia King and Lanzante combined for 63 rush yards. New Dorp came on the field late in the fourth half when Mulea clicked for a short touchdown with Gandlin (nine catches, 109 yards) and then made a run of his own late. Gandlin also intercepted a pass. Jenna Gurewitz led the defense with eight flags.
Susan Wagner 27, James Madison 0
The second-seeded Falcons made short work of their fourth-seeded Brooklyn opponent and set up a rematch with Tottenville.
After the defense forced a three-pointer on the game’s first possession, SW quarterback Alyssa Badalamenti wasted no time in unleashing the Falcon offense. The junior field general found Amanda Anderson on the left touchline for a 33-yard hookup in third and tenth place, earning the first points of the game and the loss was opened. In the middle of the first half, Ava Petersen stormed from a meter away for a 14-0 lead.
The Falcons’ defense, led by Anderson and Kaitlyn Matishek (seven flags combined and one interception apiece), forced three three-and-outs in four possessions in the first half and conceded only one first down.
“We knew Madison would be a worthy opponent, they had certain weapons that we needed to neutralize and our defense did just that,” Pelinkovic said. “They understood their responsibilities and did their job – all seven girls that were out there. The strong D led to our offensive opportunities today,” he added.
As for the league game against Tottenville, Pelinkovic praised the Pirates.
“The teams are obviously familiar and we’re expecting a great game from Tottenville. We have mutual respect for each other, the girls know each other and I think it’s going to be a tough game,” said Pelinkovic, whose team last won the PSAL title in 2019. “It might come down to who made it. The last ball wins.”
REMARKS: Badalmenti’s finale was impressive again. She threw for 164 yards and two scores and ran a third. Sarah Colchamiro threw four passes for 61 yards and a PAT.