Don’t sell the Southold First Settlers short.
Sure, the First Settlers may get caught playing shorthanded every now and then, but they can’t be faulted for coming up short on effort.
A case in point was Friday evening’s Town of Brookhaven Boys Soccer Summer League first-round playoff match against Rocky Point. At the opening kickoff, Southold had only nine players on the field while Rocky Point had a full 11 — and plenty of substitutes on the bench, to boot.
As if that wasn’t enough, Rocky Point went up only 75 seconds into the game when Charles Samon stole a ball, charged forward and slipped a shot into the net.
Then, in the 18th minute, Carson Tagner fired in a penalty kick, putting the Eagles up, 2-0.
But Lucas Grigonis, the Southold assistant coach who ran the team on Friday, likes to tell his players, “It doesn’t matter where you are at the beginning of the game; it matters where you are at the end.”
At the end, the First Settlers were on top.
Four unanswered second-half goals (three within a six-minute span), including 2 goals and 1 assist by midfielder Shayne Johnson, left the First Settlers with what had seemed an unlikely 4-2 triumph at the Patchogue/Medford Youth Soccer League complex in Medford.
“Never giving up. That’s part of Southold soccer,” said goalkeeper John Charles Funke, who made 6 saves.
The victory advances Southold to a quarterfinal on Monday evening against its North Fork neighbor Mattituck.
It took a little time to differentiate the teams in Friday’s game since they both wore dark uniforms. Southold sported gray shirts with black speckles; Rocky Point had dark green, fatigue-style tops.
An easy way to tell the teams apart in the early going was noticing that Rocky Point fielded a full team while Southold had only nine. The First Settlers played shorthanded until the 12th minute, by which time Walker Sutton and Mario Contreras had joined the proceedings, making it an even contest.
Even so, they still had to dig themselves out of a 2-goal hole, much easier said than done.
“After the two goals it was tough, but we found it inside of us to keep going,” said Johnson, whose speed presents a challenge to opposing defenses.
It took until the second 30-minute half for Southold to play more under control. Southold’s Ryan DiGregorio fired a warning shot, so to speak, sending a blast off the left post one minute into the half.
Joe Worysz gave Southold a sliver of hope in the 41st minute. A Funke punt deflected Worysz’ way and he put away his attempt for his third goal of the season.
Moments later, Southold came within inches of a second strike. A Worysz free kick crashed off the inside of the left post and ricocheted out to Sutton, who fired wide of the mark.
Then came a hectic stretch during which Southold put Rocky Point on its heels. Contreras bungled a ball in during a scramble in the 52nd minute. One minute later, Johnson, after receiving a pass from Worysz, worked along the left flank before banging in a shot off the far right post for the go-ahead goal. Johnson then deposited the final goal, his eighth of the summer, two minutes from the end.
“That’s huge,” Worysz said. “It’s all effort.”
Grigonis said, “I don’t know if we’ve actually come back from two down this year [before] but I know that we never give up, and that’s a key attribute.”