Sal Pipia thought his high school career was over.
But the McClancy captain received a second opinion on his dislocated left shoulder and got a second chance in the postseason.
The midfielder scored both goals to lift the Crusaders to a 2-1 win against Mount St. Michael in the CHSAA Class A intersectional title game Saturday afternoon at Belson Stadium.
McClancy won its second city championship in three years after falling to Mount on penalty kicks in the quarterfinals a year ago.
“I love my team, I love my coaches and I did it all for them,” Pipia said. “I’m going to miss it.”
Pipia suffered the injury on Oct. 4 in a game against Cardinal Hayes. The first prognosis had him out for three months.
In the same game, co-captain George Alissandratos badly sprained his ankle and would also miss substantial time. Crusaders coach Mike Sylvester called upon his younger players to pick up the slack.
“Our next game was Cardinal Spellman, the defending city champs and we told our guys our goals don’t change,” Sylvester said. “We want to win the division and the city championship. These guys bought into it and were confident.”
Alissandratos returned for the final regular season game and Pipia miraculously stepped back on the field for the first playoff game, only receiving clearance 20 minutes before kickoff.
Remarkably, Pipia scored the Golden Goal in the second overtime of the quarterfinal win.
“As soon as he came in, you could see it was uplifting for the team,” Sylvester said. “He adds a whole other dimension. He’s real good. When he’s out there, it helps a lot.”
That was certainly the case in the final Saturday. He received a ball from Michael Ferrara and beat Mount goalkeeper Colm Burke with a low shot in the ninth minute. He added his second goal from the penalty spot after being tripped up in the box, scoring to the left of Burke on the half hour.
“He’s the life of the team, the No. 1 guy,” goalkeeper Xavier Carillo said.
Mount’s No. 1 guy is Anton Porter, but the freshman from Jamaica was held in check by the Crusaders defense. Porter, who scored 24 goals on the season, did help set up the Mountaineers lone goal when he was taken down in the box and Harold Herrera netted the penalty kick to cut his team’s deficit to 2-1.
There were some nervy moments, especially after Ferrara was sent off with his second yellow card in the 73rd minute and Mount’s Fabian Leon lined up a free kick from 26 yards out.
But Carillo dived to his left to make the save.
“My freshman year I was on the team and we won, but I didn’t play,” Carillo said. “This year, as being a captain and especially the goalie, it feels amazing because everyone depends on the goalie.”
The loss was painful for Mount (12-2-3), but coach Mike Boyle said it doesn’t tarnish what was a special season.
“It was a great ride,” Boyle said. “Two good playoff teams playing against each other. We had the Cinderella day against McClancy last year and today was their day…We’re getting this program in the right direction.”
McClancy (14-2-2), meanwhile, celebrated its second Class A title in three years. Two years ago, the Crusaders defeated rival Bishop Ford in the championship game in Sylvester’s first year as coach.
“I think this one I enjoyed the ride a little more,” Sylvester said. “My first year everything was a whirlwind. I didn’t realize how hard it was to actually make it all the way here and win it…This year I enjoyed every game. It was awesome.”
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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