Cardinal Spellman and rival Mount St. Michael played to a scoreless draw in their first meeting. Maybe it was competing on a college field or the energy from crowd, but finding the back of the net didn’t prove to be much of a problem for the Pilots the second time around. Eight different players scored as the Pilot’s spoiled the Mountaineers’ home game on college field.
“Just them asking us to come to Columbia University was even more of a bigger deal,” Spellman forward Tonin Tonaj said. “Since our freshman year this was our biggest rival and now they wanted to come here on a better field and try to embarrass us. It didn’t work.”
The Spellman offense exploded in a 9-2 over Mount in CHSAA A North boys’ soccer on Oct. 16 at Columbia University’s Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium. It is the first high school game played at the facility since its renaming last year. Commisso, the CEO of Mediacom Communications Corporation, played soccer at Mount and Columbia and was influential in making the game happen.
“I’ve never played on something like this,” Tonaj said. “This is probably the biggest game of my life.”
The Pilots (7-2-1) led 3-1 at the half thanks to the first of two goals by Tonin and scores from Javier Carrillo and Michael Dipenta. Mount, which got a first half score from Anton Porter, appeared to get back in the game early in the second half. Hayale Smith kicked home the rebound of a Porter shot to pull the Mountaineers (4-5-2) within 3-2 in the 42nd minute.
The hope of a comeback was short lived. Valon Berisha, who also had an assist, netted the goal of the game when his cross from 16 yards out along the right side went into the top left corner of the net in the 45th minute. Geo Rodas scored a minute later to give Spellman its third two-goal lead of the game at 5-2. Berisha said he was just trying to put a pass to the back post. It shocked him to see it go in.
“I didn’t think I was going to reach it,” Berisha said. “The ball slowly dipped and went into the top left corner. It surprised me. I started laughing. I wasn’t expecting a goal.”
The Pilots moved Rodas up to midfield from defense recently and it’s helped ignite more offense. Jesus Pedrosa, Adam Biolsi and Michael Dipreta each netted scored second half scores as each coach gave their bench a chance to play on a college field. Nicholas Ramero added two assists for Spellman.
The victory was of greater importance than just taking down a rival. It kept Spellman on pace to face Salesian on Oct. 23 with the division title on the line. The Pilots won the first meeting 1-0 back on Sept. 24. Spellman coach Tom Cabrera said he wasn’t sure if this team was capable of success like this after losing eight starters and 12 senior from last year’s club, but Spellman finds itself a serious contender for a city title.
“A lot of these guys were on the team and I told them, ‘Your chance will come.’” Cabrera said. “This is the year and we are playing very well right now.”