PORT JEFFERSON STATION– The third time was not the charm for Southold.
All three of the Southold High School boys soccer team’s losses to the Port Jefferson Royals this season were shutouts. The latest, a 3-0 loss in the Suffolk County Class C semifinals on Wednesday afternoon, ended the First Settlers’ season.
But it will most likely not be the loss that sticks with Southold Coach Andrew Sadowski, not the goals allowed on throw-ins deep in Port Jefferson’s offensive zone, nor the Royals crashing the net on an indirect kick, scoring on a third rebound after Southoldgoalie Preston Jolliver knocked away the first two.
Instead, Sadowski was more focused on what happened to Southold sophomore Evan Miller after the game was essentially decided.
With 13 minutes 6 seconds left in the game and Southold trailing, 3-0, Miller had the ball and was trying to start a run as he approached midfield. His forward progress stopped abruptly as Port Jefferson forward Alex Carlacci upended him with a sliding tackle. Miller stayed on the ground for a couple minutes, clutching at his lower left leg. Carlacci received a yellow card and stayed in the game.
Sadowski and the Southold trainer helped Miller to the sidelines. Miller put no weight on his left foot, hopping on his right. He spent the rest of the game with his left leg propped up on the bench.
After the game, Miller was sporting a large bruise just under his left knee as he was helped to an awaiting golf cart.
“From the vicious hit from behind where there was no intent to play the ball, we’re now concerned with [Miller] having to go to the hospital and making sure that there isn’t a break or there isn’t damage with his knee,” Sadowski said. “It was clearly a dirty play, clearly. It’s a shame because I felt Port Jefferson played a very good game. Technically, I think the majority of them are very good soccer players and fabulous sportsmen, and it’s a shame there are a couple kids who just want to ruin it. I’m just so frustrated with that type of play.”
Port Jefferson Coach John Poulianos did not defend the play, but did offer an explanation.
“I didn’t think [Carlacci] had an opportunity to play the ball,” Poulianos said. “I thought the ball was gone well before he made contact. The [yellow] card was deserved. [Sadowski] was upset and rightfully so.”
He added: “It happened. What am I supposed to do? Beat the kid with a stick when he comes off the field? At that point, it’s a done deal. No matter what you coach your players, no matter what you tell your players, once they’re on the field, it’s going to happen. Things are going to happen. I told [Sadowski]: ‘I’ll address it in the locker room.’ It happened. I can’t take it back.”
Another thing Poulianos said he would address would be how the top-seeded Royals (14-3) will approach their next opponent, the winner of the other Class C semifinal between The Stony Brook Bears and the Pierson/Bridgehampton Whalers. He said they will have to try to make runs and keep the ball on the ground rather than depending on executing the kind of dead-ball plays they used to beat Southold (9-6-2), especially if they face Stony Brook.
Within the first minute, Southold had the game’s first run, but Royals goalie Gabe Davis, who finished with eight saves, intercepted a pass near the net. Port Jefferson answered quickly, earning its first corner kick shortly thereafter. Jolliver batted it out of bounds.
Carlacci launched the ensuing throw-in deep into the penalty area, where Blake Bohlen headed it to Vincent Antonelli for the goal. The Royals had a 1-0 lead barely four minutes into the game.
Jolliver, who finished with seven saves, was bombarded by shots. With 8:30 left in the first half, the Royals kicked four in a row. Jolliver, deflected the first one, an indirect kick, and saved the first two rebounds. But the third, from Connor Crovello, got past him, putting the Royals ahead, 2-0.
Bohlen struck again in the second half, booting a throw-in from Carlacci past Jolliver for the third goal.
“They gave the effort that they could,” Sadowski said of the First Settlers. “I think at times we hesitated to go win the ball and unfortunately they stepped through. The goals that they scored in the first half were certainly a lack of aggressive play by our defenders to try and play the ball out.”
Sadowski will have to wait until next fall to have another crack at his 200th career victory. Meanwhile, Port Jefferson will move on to the Class C final on Saturday