TUCKERS 4, MARINERS 1
When soccer’s version of Friday night lights hit Mattituck High School, the Tuckers shined. Standing in the center of the spotlight was David Burkhardt, who enjoyed a magical night he will not soon forget.
Mattituck scored 36 seconds into the game — the first of three goals within a span of 5 minutes 41 seconds — and Burkhardt struck for a hat trick to lead the Tuckers to a 4-1 homecoming victory over Southampton. With the result, Mattituck (6-1-1, 4-0-1) dislodged Southampton (5-2, 3-1) out of first place in Suffolk County League VII.
Burkhardt has scored seven goals in two games and has 10 this season. The senior center midfielder’s three goals on Friday night are second only to the career-high four he netted in a win over Wyandanch in the team’s previous game four days earlier.
“I feel great,” Burkhardt said. “It feels really special. I want to keep it up and keep it going.”
The match between the top two teams in League VII got off to a lightning-quick start under the glare of the portable lights around the field. After the opening kickoff, Kaan Ilgin pushed the ball forward on the left flank for Mario Arreola. Arreola’s centering pass found an unmarked Burkhardt, who popped the ball into the net.
Burkhardt had another opportunity to add to his goal total in the seventh minute. He ran onto a ball from James Hayes and was taken down in the penalty area. Burkhardt expertly slid the resulting penalty kick in for a 2-0 lead.
Then, off the ensuing kickoff, Stephen Urwand intercepted a Southampton back pass and gave Mattituck a 3-0 lead with his third goal of the season. The goal came just 23 seconds after Burkhardt’s penalty kick.
“The first seven minutes, I’ve never seen us jump on a team faster than that,” said Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult, whose Tuckers are 3-0 in homecoming games played under the lights.
Was Southampton stunned?
“It could have been that,” Urwand said. “Our team might have been in shock. We were just feeling it, a lot of skill, a lot of intensity.”
Pumped up by the playoff atmosphere and the chants of their fans, the Tuckers may have also been boosted by the artificial lighting, believe it or not.
“For some reason it’s just more special because you play a lot of your games during the season in the day, and when it’s lights, it seems more like everything’s focused on you,” said Urwand.
Strange as it sounds, Litchhult believes his team’s fast start to the game may have hurt Mattituck in a sense. “That sounds weird because I think we just got goal happy and we didn’t play our style after that for a while,” he said. “I thought we were a little too overhyped at times. I think we can play better soccer overall and to say that we won, 4-1, on the night and I think we could play better, that’s a good thing.”
Southampton pulled a goal back in the 36th minute. A hard shot by Henry Perez was blocked by Mattituck goalkeeper Stephen Ostrowski, but the rebound flew out to Dailos Ramos, who followed up by directing the ball, from straight on about 20 yards out, inside the right goalpost.
Burkhardt wasn’t done scoring for the night. Hayes drew a foul that set up a free kick a couple of yards outside the penalty area and in front of the Southampton goal. Burkhardt put the kick away with 1:18 left in the first half.
Burkhardt’s rise as a goal scorer has been an interesting one. He may know better than anyone that goal scoring can be a quirky thing.
“I know all about that after my sophomore year — no goals the entire season,” he said. “I hit a crossbar in overtime twice. I hit the post a couple of times. That was horrible.”
Last season Burkhardt put in nine goals. And now, with the midpoint of the league season approaching, he is on a torrid pace.
Why is he scoring so much?
“I don’t know,” said Burkhardt, who took five shots, completed 21 of 29 passes and had 46 touches against Southampton. “I’m just putting in hard work in practice and keeping my head up.”
While acknowledging that it was a “great win” for his team, Litchhult is under no illusions. He know that the race for the league title with tough teams like Southampton, Hampton Bays and Center Moriches is far from over.
“One, two, three, four,” he said. “We’re all very close, to be honest with you.”
The Mariners, who were ousted by Mattituck in the playoffs last year, might have been looking for revenge on Friday night, but the Tuckers were ready for them.
“Every game is a big game, but this one is special,” Burkhardt said. “We knew it was a special occasion.”
At the end of his memorable night, Burkhardt said, “All of us wanted to show off a little bit.”