Bayside had just equalized, shifting momentum in its favor. With less than 20 minutes left in the second half, the PSAL Class A semifinal was up for grabs when Charlie Yang was taken down in the box, resulting in a penalty kick.
The Patriots have plenty of candidates, but coach Roger Sarmuksnis called on defender Adrian Garcia in the game’s pivotal moment.
“Adrian has been a tremendous captain and leader,” he said. “He’s been leading this team since last year.”
Garcia delivered, burying his penalty kick and helping lift Francis Lewis to a 3-1 win against Bayside Friday morning at New Dorp HS.
“It could have been anybody, but its what our coach wanted,” Garcia said. “I knew I could put it and did what I had to do.”
Francis Lewis advances to the PSAL Class A title game for the fourth time in five years, taking on Martin Luther King Sunday at Randall’s Island. Last year the Patriots fell to Beacon on penalty kicks.
“It’s different every year because it’s a different team every year, a different feeling every single year,” Sarmuksnis said.
Returning to the title game this year was even more significant, according to Garcia, because of the players, including Adelphi goalkeeper Chris Herrera, who graduated.
“It means the world to us,” he said. “Everybody thinks we’re the underdog, that we’re always second place and that’s not true. We work hard and sadly we haven’t done what we had to do. Hopefully this year we could change it all, prove everyone wrong and show that Francis Lewis isn’t just a second place team.”
Yang put Francs Lewis (15-0-0), ranked No. 3 in New York City by MSG Varsity, in front with a low shot inside the far post from 16 yards out in the ninth minute.
That lead held up until the 54th minute when Spencer Rivera was called for a hand ball in the box and referee Nabil Al Saidi pointed to the spot.
Marcello Russo stepped up and leveled the match for No. 5 Bayside (12-3-1) with a well-struck penalty kick.
However, Garcia netted his own PK in the 62nd minute and the Commodores struggled to respond, especially without star forward Santiago Moore, who suffered a torn meniscus in a second round win against FDR on Nov. 3. Nikolas Touros clinched the victory with an insurance tally in the 80th minute.
“There’s always a place on the field for Santi,” Bayside coach Joe Corrado said. “It obviously plays a role. He’s the type of player who can change a game.”
While Moore was sorely missed in Bayside’s first semifinal appearance in Corrado’s 12 years as coach, the Commodores coach is enthusiastic about his team’s future.
“Getting here is a great experience, especially for the young players,” he said. “I have a full JV team and they’re just ready to get going. We lose Constantin [Pougiouklidis], Marcello and Dennis [Amvrosiatos], but we still have a team.”
And the Patriots still have a chance to win their first city title.
“It feels amazing,” Francis Lewis star Danny Bedoya said. “We didn’t want to go out this year. We wanted to go all the way and here we are, one more game.”
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