Pearl River battled back from a slow start a three-point lead in the third quarter of Saturday's Homecoming game against Hendrick Hudson.
The Pirates' defense nearly kept the momentum going with a stop on the following drive by the Sailors, but Hendrick Hudson quarterback Joe Fraietta's tipped pass landed in the arms of receiver Josh Kraft for a 29-yard touchdown for the go-ahead touchdown.
"To (have them) regain the lead, that kind of took the wind out of our sails," Pearl River Head Coach Jeff Michael said. "That seems to be the way the ball is bouncing for us this year."
Kraft's touchdown sparked a run of 21 unanswered points for Hendrick Hudson, which clinched a playoff berth with a 27-17 victory at Pearl River.
"We got lucky there," Hendrick Hudson Coach Mike Lynch said. "I got too explosive with the refs and got hit with a 15-yard penalty and the players picked me up. We got a tipped pass, but we practice tipped balls and our receiver was able to go up and get it. From there, we shifted to our defense. We got a couple of big interceptions and that got our offense going."
Pearl River seemed poised to respond to Kraft's score with another one of its own after junior quarterback Chris Van Houten completed a 19-yard pass to Rob Gullo and scrambled for 11 yards to the Hendrick Hudson 18. Two plays later, Brendon Koutnik intercepted Van Houten's pass at the six and returned it to the 15, ending the threat.
"It was a miscommunication on the routes," Michael said. "It's a couple of untimely mistakes here or there, whether it be a penalty or a turnover. The young team we have, it's going to be a learning experience for them. We talked to them in the middle of the field and told them to file stuff like this away in the memory bank and learn from it."
A personal foul penalty on Pearl River moved the ball out to the 30 and the Sailors drove the final 70 for another touchdown. Quarterback Joe Fraietta converted a fourth-and-one with a six-yard run on a quick count and completed an 18-yard pass to Carson Cole. Cole finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run off left tackle, then caught a two-point conversion pass to push the Sailors' lead to 20-9.
The second interception set up the Sailors' final score of the day. Linebacker Peter Pinque picked off the Van Houten pass at the 28 and returned it to the Pirates' 10. Eddy Tandy completed a 10-yard scoring pass to Kyle Kristiansen on the next play to give Hendrick Hudson a 27-9 edge.
Pearl River added a touchdown late with Gullo in at quarterback. Van Houten, who returned after missing the John Jay game with a concussion, was removed for precautionary reasons after taking a late hit out of bounds.
"The kid de-cleated him three yards out of bounds," Michael said. "It was unfortunate. He had a long day in the pocket. With him coming off a concussion, we didn't want to take any chances."
Two plays later, Gullo scrambled right and threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Brian Tarsnane. He found Tarsnane again for a two-point conversion.
"That's what Rob does," Michael said. "Rob's a playmaker. When our heads are don and we need something to happen, we can turn to Rob Gullo and Kevin Considine to get our spirits up."
It was Considine who gave the Pirates a 9-6 lead by catching a two-yard touchdown pass from Van Houten with 10:18 remaining in the third quarter. Pat Gannon set up the score with a 53-yard catch and run down the left sideline with a tunnel screen.
"We saw that they adjusted to our spread empty look by bringing two guys up the middle every time, so we figured the tunnel would be open," Michael said. "Gannon made a fantastic run after the catch and put us in position to get that touchdown."
"They took the lead, to their credit," said Lynch, whose Sailors improved to 5-2. "To their credit, they are a tough team. We jumped on them early and they came right back on us."
Hendrick Hudson made it look easy on the opening possession of the game, marching 83 yards for a score. Justin Fischer gave the Sailors the 6-0 lead with a 39-yard touchdown run, but the extra point was blocked.
Pearl River cut the lead in half in the second quarter on a 35-yard field goal by Ronan Curry.
The Pirates had a shot to score before the end of the second quarter after Van Houten hit passes of 23 yards to James Linnane and 17 yards to Gullo, but the Sailors were able to sack him on the final play of the half.
Van Houten finished the game with 17 completions in 26 attempts for 233 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
"He's a talented kid," Lynch said. "I'm glad to see he was able to play this week. We knew that kid wasn't going to sit out on Homecoming."
In addition to throwing a touchdown pass on his only attempt, Gullo ran for 44 yards, caught five passes for 66 yards. Pearl River actually outgained Hendrick Hudson, 298-265.
Pearl River completed its regular season 1-6 and will play next week in a cross-scheduled game at home against Ossining.