Midway through the opening half, Mattituck High School boys soccer coach Will Hayes looked down at the grass on the field.
“Gee, a penny,” he said, pocketing it.
Up until then Hayes did not need much luck — his team had rolled to a three-goal advantage over Greenport — but perhaps he could have used a little later Tuesday afternoon. The Tuckers lost senior goalkeeper James Jacobs to a sprained right ankle early in the second half of their 3-0 Suffolk County League VII victory.
Junior Emmett Ryan, who had seen little playing time as a backup, did well, making three saves after Jack Burkhardt, Alp Kilinic and Dane Reda had given the hosts a sizable cushion.
After a mediocre 3-4 start, Mattituck (9-5, 8-3) has been on a roll of late, winning six of seven games. The Tuckers’ lone defeat was a 1-0 loss at Babylon in which the hosts scored the game-winner with four minutes remaining.
“I thought we played a lot better this time than last time,” Burkhardt said about the 1-0 loss at Greenport (8-6, 6-4) Sept. 20. “We’re a lot better squad now. We’ve recovered since the last time we played them. I think we’re going good places now.”
Porters coach Sean Charters thought so.
“Mattituck came to play,” he said. “They came strong. I knew they would come strong. They’re a good group of guys. I think they’re starting to get their ball rolling. I think they’re going to hit their peak and hopefully they make a run in the postseason.”
Jacobs, who needed one crutch to walk after the game, hoped that he will be back by then, specifically for the Suffolk Class B semifinals Oct. 24.
“I’m happy we got the win, happy we kept the shutout,” he said. “I’m upset that I had to go down like that. I wish I stayed in. It’s not looking too bad, but it’s not looking too good. Hopefully I’ll be back for the playoffs. Hopefully.”
Jacobs incurred his injury when Jason Cruz collided with him while going for the ball in the penalty area as the Greenport midfielder’s studs went into his foot 1 minute and 58 seconds into the second half. Jacobs tore ankle ligaments while playing for the varsity baseball team two years ago.
Hayes was more optimistic.
“He was on his feet after the game,” he said. “He will be fine for Friday. He’ll be fine for Monday when we play against Wheatley. So, it’ll be nice. For the guys to band together and to play their hearts out to get him that shutout [was good].”
Jacobs has 19 career shutouts and is one shy of the school record set by Cody Huntley from 2009-10.
The Tuckers could not have asked any more of Ryan, who did not miss a beat in the net. He caught Drew Wolf’s long, high shot from just about the center line with 3:02 remaining in the match.
“He did amazing,” center back Bryce Grathwohl said. “He was very good at communicating. When they played a through ball … he came out and dove on it. He made a nice save on his line.”
“He came into a situation where he’s behind a goalkeeper who has been starting for four years,” Hayes said. “In order to take your chance, you have to be mentally strong and he’s done that. Today was his moment, to get into a game and prove what he could do. He acquitted himself really well. He caught all his balls, he distributed well. His goal kicks were fine. Everything you look for in a goalkeeper.”
The Tuckers made quick work of the Porters (8-6, 6-4), scoring twice in the opening four minutes. Only 61 seconds into the game, Burkhardt scored straight off a corner kick — an Olimpico goal — that hit the far right post and bounded into the net for his 14th goal.
“I was trying to hit a teammate,” Burkhardt said. “I guess it was a gust of wind that kind of pushed it in or something. Got a little lucky.”
Added Hayes: “We work very hard on set pieces. We expect to score off of them, but not directly from them, from the corners.”
Kilinic put home a rebound past goalkeeper Miguel Torres with 36:16 left in the first half before Reda tallied with 20:15 remaining in the half after Berkan Ilgin won the ball with Burkhardt making the last pass.
“They grew into the game after we scored,” Hayes said. “By then they were chasing the game.”
The Porters clinched a playoff spot last week so there is a good chance there could be another Class C showdown against Southold in two weeks.
“So far, this year’s been great,” Charters said. “We’re having a great season. I think we’re still putting our pieces together right now … I think we have a good shot at going into the county playoff game and hopefully making some noise.”
Photo caption: Mattituck goalkeeper James Jacobs covers up a loose ball in the vicinity of Greenport’s Josue Gomez (14) and Mattituck’s Josh Starzee. (Credit: Garret Meade)