The No. 2 seeded Pilgrim Patriots out battled the previously undefeated No. 1 seeded St. Raphael Saints 1-0 during the Boys Division III Soccer Final on a chilly Sunday evening at Johnston High School, claiming their first state championship since 2000.
“I think they played great,” Pilgrim head coach Bill Carroll said. “Very disciplined. They stuck to their jobs, kept their shape well and that’s all that I can ask of them.”
The game-winning tally came from, none other than, the leading goal scorer in the state, junior Danny Peixinho 67:39 into the contest after an assist from middle Zach DaSilva during a corner kick.
“They tried clearing it out, but they missed it,” Peixinho said. “And I was just looking at the ground and I saw the ball right there and I just tapped it in. That’s really all there was to it.”
“I’m feeling great right now,” Peixinho continued. “We worked so hard to get here and we’re just really happy to get the result we wanted.” I’ve been dreaming about this since the sixth grade to play in high school and win a championship like this. And with great guys like that. I’m just happy to call them my teammates.”
“He’s a poacher,” Carroll said of Peixinho. “He’s a natural goal scorer and that’s what he does. He was quiet most of the game, but he did a hell of a job holding the ball, waiting for us to get up and that’s what we were doing. That was the plan. He was up there on his own, we came back with a five-man midfield and he held the ball up for us. He was perfect. It worked out tremendously. I felt sorry for him when he got the ball because it was so long for us to get up there, but it worked. It worked well and I couldn’t be happy for them. They worked their tails off.”
“Danny is the best offender in the state,” Pats defenseman Dave D’Andrea added. “He gave us the opportunity to be up and our defense held it.”
“Three straight scoreless games for the other teams - Max, best goalie,” D’Andrea continued.
The defenseman was referring to Pats senior goalkeeper Max Caracuzzo, who made nine stops in net on the night and totaled a trio of shutouts in the postseason.
“We knew that we had a lot of confidence coming into this game, but definitely people doubted us,” Caracuzzo explained. “At some points, we doubted ourselves, but we picked it up, played our game, switched some things up and we really got it done.”
The Saints best chance came 15 minutes into the second half when senior forward Joe Majkut fired a bullet during a breakaway, but it was denied by a charging Caracuzzo. Seconds after that, Caracuzzo made a point-blank save on a rocket from junior Dylan Polion.
“Those were big,” Caracuzzo said. “A few times, I had Majkut staring me dead in the eyes. One he missed left on a wide-open shot and two times that I corralled in. You just kind of got to read it as well as you can, you’re pretty much guessing at that point.”
Saints junior goalkeeper Emiliano Munguia finished the night with three saves.
“Today, he played exceptionally,” St. Rays head coach Frank Balcarcel said. “He made a great save that probably should have gone in. He came out when he needed to. You get four corners, you can only do so much. So, he did his job today. And he’s actually from Warwick, so I think this was his moment to shine and he did.”