McQuaid holds on to beat Thomas

Justin LaFountain (6) controls the ball at midfield during Monday’s non-league matchup. McQuaid beat Webster Thomas, 1-0.

By PAUL GOTHAM

Dylan Duffy struck in the opening moments of the second half, and the McQuaid Jesuit Knights, ranked No. 1 NYS Class AA, went on to defeat the Webster Thomas Titans, 1-0 in non-league action Monday night on Tom Seymour Field.

Duffy was at the finishing end of Adriano Margiotta’s probing ball to start the stanza.

“We always start off with that play when we have the ball to start the half,” Duffy explained. “We like to just launch it and have us pressure them instantly.”

Brennan Brown used his head to flick the bounding ball forward to Duffy for the game’s only marker.

“I ran into the goal with the ball on my chest,” Duffy said. “Browny and I were just on there. He knew I was going on beyond him, so he headed it on to me. It was hard work from there, just crash. It’s not pretty, but it went in.”

McQuaid made the tally stand and improved to 15-0-0 on the season.

“The speed coming up the sidelines is the key to that,” McQuaid coach Nino Pilato said referring to Brown and Duffy. “They just take some pride in that one play. It’s fun to watch it.”

The win also gave the gave the Knights, who have a pair of victories over Section VI power Canisius and another triumph over Cicero-North Syracuse, an ounce of validation locally.

“It’s really big,” Duffy said of the win. “Everyone had doubts about our team, saying we were overrated. They put up a good fight, but we took the upper hand there and got the win.”

As the score indicated, it didn’t come easily.

McQuaid peppered repeated shots at the Thomas goal to no avail.

Margiotta rattled the crossbar on a free kick attempt that looked destined for an upper 90 strike late in the first half. Minutes later, Dominic Duncan got behind the Thomas backline when the senior attacker ran down a Dan Malloy diagonal lead but could not finish. Just before the end of the half, Brown made a rush to the end line and a cross to Duncan  for a redirect that Thomas keeper Jake Witte smothered with a diving save.

The teams went into the break with a scoreless draw.

“That’s a great team,” Pilato said of Thomas. “They’re physical. They’re tough. They can play long and they can play pretty soccer, too. It was a good test.

“Being 0-0 at halftime hasn’t happened much this year. For them to face that little bit of adversity and then come out in 14 seconds and put one in [was important]. Had a few more chances we probably should have finished.”

Witte stood strong again late in the game when he denied a point blank attempt from Mark Croop just outside the 6-yard box.

McQuaid keeper, Tommy Gallina, matched his counterpart late in the contest with a leaping save on an Owen Lederman blast from 35 yards out.

“I didn’t really see it at first,” the senior said. “One of my defenders moved out of the way, and I saw it. Just took a couple steps over and caught it.”

The Section Five leader with a goal against average of .101 recorded McQuaid’s 12th shutout of the season.

“It’s a huge win,” Gallina added. “A lot of people have been doubting what we’ve accomplished, saying we play nobody. They’re obviously a good team, great contenders for sectionals. A win here shows that we can hang with any team.”

The loss was the second straight for Thomas (8-4-2) and just the third time this season the Titans have been shut out.

Thomas hosts Irondequoit on Wednesday before closing the season at Hilton, Friday.

McQuaid welcomes long-time rival Aquinas on Thursday to conclude the regular season.

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