Story by JOHN ANDERSON, photos by STEVE HARRISON
GENESEO — During the regular season, Pasquale “PJ” Picco has had a pretty good view of a lot of goals and a lot of wins.
The junior midfielder for the Hornell Red Raiders came into the Section V finals on Saturday with zero goals and 14 assists. His biggest assist was in overtime during a 2-1 semi-final win to his brother, Gennaro.
Going into the finals against Bishop Kearney, Picco and Hornell coach Jim Tobin noticed the way the BK defense lined up, which could allow Picco to get a goal rather than fill up the stat sheet with assists.
Boy were they right.
PJ Picco scored his first two goals of the season, both difference-makers in the second half, as No. 3 Hornell defeated No. 4 Bishop Kearney/Chesterton Academy (14-5-1), 3-1 for the Section V Class B title.
With a full 15-team bracket in Class B, Hornell advances right to the Far West Regionals on Saturday. Hornell will play the Section V Class B winner at noon at West Seneca. The winner goes to the state final four.
On Tuesday, Class B1 Champion East Aurora (16-0-1) will play Class B2 champion Southwestern (15-1-0) for the right to play Hornell (14-3-1).
“We knew the way (BK) played their defense with a flat four, there would be some balls that would get through and I would get a chance to get my first goal,” PJ Picco said. “And on my first goal (to put Hornell up 2-0), a ball got by a defender and I was able to score.”
With 25 minutes left, the intensity picked up when BK scored to cut the lead to 2-1. But Hornell wouldn’t need overtime this time and put the game away.
The second goal was another role-reversal. Senior striker Jack Emo, who leads all of Section V with 37 goals, sent a pass to PJ who trapped and continued with his left foot and buried the nail in the coffin far post.
But PJ didn’t just score. The first goal of the game was a goal by Hornell sophomore midfielder Wyatt Evingham on an assist by PJ Picco assist just 23 minutes into the game.
Evingham now has 12 goals and 20 assists for 44 points on the season for Hornell.
Davin Oyer got the victory in goal for Hornell.
Hornell has won six Section V titles, but Tobin said this one is special.
“Winning a bracket with 15 teams is a little more special compared to when it’s split into two 8-team brackets,” Tobin said. “After we beat Waterloo to start sectionals, to sweep Bath, Livonia and Bishop Kearney, that is an amazing feat.”
Livonia downed Hornell 1-0 to win the Section V Class B1 title in 2022 and Bishop Kearney beat Penn Yan, 2-1 to win the Section V Class B2 title.
But the past is the past and Tobin’s focus is on the next one as Hornell is three wins from a state title.
“No. 1, everyone is thrilled we are playing. We’ve only done this once before (reach the Far West Regionals) and at that time, everyone was content winning a sectional title,” Tobin said. “But if you are this far, you might as well try to keep going. I know those Buffalo teams are very, very good, but we’re going to have a great week of practice and we’ll bring our A-game. We will find out what we can about our opponent and do the best we can.”
And doing the best that he can came down to Emo, who focused more on controlling the midfield than scoring.
“Jack is an amazing talent, we’ve never seen anything like him before and may never again,” Tobin said. “I said to him on the bus he (would be marked) and Jack did what he had to do to help us win today. His teammates stepped up to help us win tonight and Jack was still Jack on the field. You don’t win a sectional title without an amazing whole team win and we did that from goaltending to defending, the midfield picked up, we attacked and those goals out of PJ were just awesome.”
Emo, who has won two Section V soccer titles and been to the finals three times, said he embraced his new role.
“Today, I just wanted to win. I realized they had multiple guys coming at me and I let them collapse on me, because I didn’t care if I scored, I wanted to win,” Emo said. “I didn’t do any scoring today, my goal was to help the team win any way I could.”
PJ Picco’s two goals ties the season mark by his brother, Mason, a sophomore. The oldest brother, senior Gennaro, has four goals.
Putting the two goal-scoring Picco’s on defense was a gutsy move for Tobin and one he lost sleep wondering if it would work. But on Monday, Hornell AD John Cardamone has to clear room in the trophy case for his sixth title. It’s decisions to put the team first that win championships.
“Going into this season, I knew for the first time in all my years coaching, I would get a lot of second-guessing of, ‘Why isn’t Gennaro playing offense?’ Last game he played offense and that situation worked out ideal for us,” Tobin said. “But today, these guys were so good. Bishop Kearney’s #8 (Josh) Baraka (24 goals, 62 points to lead all of Section V private schools) can score. I thought Gennaro’s athleticism could keep him in bay. And (sophomore) Marco Picco, who can play defense, did such a good job in the middle. We are putting together the strongest lineup we can.”
And that lineup helped Hornell Senior captain Davin Oyer ready to have to make a few saves for the win.
“I have to thank my goalie coach, Josh Harrison, he really helps me mentally be prepared to make a save when that times comes,” Oyer said. “This game means a lot to me, especially after last year when we lost 1-0 to Livonia in the finals. So this means a lot to us as a team.”
The Section V champion team for 2023 receiving their patches and the block were, freshman goalie Bennett Kaszynski, senior goalie, Davin Oyer Goalie, senior sweeper, Gennaro Picco, sophomore midfielder, Marco Picco, senior striker Jack Emo, sophomore Christian Valle, sophomore defender Ryan Harkenrider, junior midfielder William Murphy III, sophomore striker Alfie Whiteley, junior midfielder Christopher Ritenburg, sophomore defender Nicholas Gray, sophomore midfielder Wyatt Evingham, junior midfielder Pasquale Picco, sophomore defender Demayne Dixon, senior defender Andrew Davis, junior midfielder Ayden Travis, freshman defender Cody Cardamone, senior striker Eric Ross, senior defender Kevin Regan, sophomore Skyler Aldrich, senior midfielder Spencer Hopper, junior Kellen Crowe and sophomores Gabriel Rasephei and Jayden Rasephei.
Joining Tobin on the coaching staff are assistants Fred Thompson, Jon Ashworth, Zach Haynes, Caden Dunham and Josh Harrison.
STEVE HARRISON PHOTO GALLERY: