Back from a broken leg, Ellis is an offensive force

Brian Willett of Bishop McGann-Mercy (white jersey) tried to impede the progress of Southold’s Jake Ellis.

Jake Ellis must feel as if he has travelled in a time machine.

It was only two years ago when Ellis was the rising young star on a veteran Southold High School boys soccer team, starting as a sophomore outside midfielder. Today, Ellis is a senior co-captain of the First Settlers, with an enhanced role and a lot of time to make up for.

What was lost in between was a junior season. A broken right leg limited Ellis’ junior season to a few seconds in a final home game against the Greenport Porters. “I just wished that I could have been a part of it more,” he said.

The injury Ellis suffered came while he was playing for a club team, the Mattituck Roadrunners, right before the start of the 2009 school season. Ellis was pursuing a through ball at the same time as the opposing goalkeeper. After shooting, Ellis landed on his right leg just when the goalie slid into the leg.

“It snapped,” Ellis said. “It was really loud. I thought it was my shin guard at first.”

Ellis sustained nerve damage. At one point there was concern he might not be able to walk normally again, never mind play soccer.

Now, after physical therapy and hard work, Ellis is back on the field again, with a rod in his right leg and limited mobility with his right foot (he cannot point his foot up all the way with his heel touching the ground).

“It’s different now,” Ellis said. “I kind of lost a year, I guess, but it’s good to get back out and play. I like playing a lot.”

Ellis hasn’t lost his scoring touch. He was involved in Southold’s first three goals on Friday, scoring twice and assisting on another in a 4-0 non-league win over the host Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs. Ellis has three goals and one assist from Southold’s first four games, all non-leaguers in which the team has gone 3-0-1.

“Certainly last year, you could see the frustration on his face just sitting there and knowing that he couldn’t help the team,” Southold Coach Andrew Sadowski said. “Obviously, now being a senior, he’s got to be one of the go-to guys. … His teammates look to him to create plays.”

Ellis, described by Sadowski as having an “incredible” work rate, was one of the most dynamic players on Harold T. Murray Memorial Field, taking a game-high six shots, four of which were on goal. He has had to get accustomed to playing with younger teammates such as Sean O’Donnell, a sophomore midfielder, who added a goal and two assists. Jake De Simone struck for the fourth goal.

Preston Jolliver was called upon to make only two saves for Southold’s fourth shutout.

As a sophomore, Ellis played on the team along with his older brother, Matt, who was a team captain. The two have distinct playing styles. “Matt was very streaky,” Sadowski said. “Jake is just grind it out, grind it out. He’s going to punish you whether he’s scoring goals, getting assists or just winning the ball.”

Ellis punished the Monarchs, who took their third loss in as many games. Just 3 minutes 4 seconds into the game he punched a ball past goalkeeper Roger Young for a 1-0 lead on the game’s first shot.

Then, 5:21 into the second half, Ellis laid a ball off for the onrushing O’Donnell to slam home, making it 2-0. In the 51st minute, Evan Miller popped a ball forward for Ellis, who collected it in midfield, charged forward and fired into the net.

Record aside, Sadowski hasn’t liked all that he has seen from his team.

“We have a long way to go,” he said. “Our record is one thing, but when I analyzed it, their play, they’re not stringing enough passes together, they’re not playing comfortably enough with the ball at their feet, they’re not playing comfortably enough with each other yet.”

“It’s getting there,” he continued. “We can see the improvement in bits and pieces. There are some real pictures of very nice play, and then there are pictures of, ‘Oh boy, what are you doing?’ “

McGann-Mercy saw its best scoring chance miss the mark in the waning seconds when Drew Rajotte struck a blazing shot that skimmed off the top of the crossbar.

Southold held a 15-7 advantage in shots and took all but one of the game’s eight corner kicks.

The game was the final non-league tuneup for both teams before they begin their league schedules, Southold in League VIII and McGann-Mercy in League VII.

Ellis said the injury he experienced hasn’t affected his game as much as people might think it would.

“I think it’s almost back to where it was,” he said. “My first touch isn’t quite as good, I guess.”

Sadowski doesn’t seem to have noticed any lingering affects of the injury on Ellis. The coach said, “I’d like to be able to run like him.”