TUCKERS 2, MARINERS 1
At a small school like Mattituck, talented players rarely have to wait around for an opportunity to seize a key role. In most years, Austin Scoggin could have admirably started at goalkeeper during his junior season.
But with 6-foot-5 Cody Huntley setting a school record for shutouts during his two years as a starter, Scoggin had no choice last season but to wait patiently for his turn.
Now a senior, Scoggin turned his first career playoff start Wednesday afternoon into a memory he and his teammates will never forget.
The Tuckers, behind a brilliant performance from Scoggin in net, upset previously unbeaten and top-seeded Southampton, 2-1, on the road in the Class B semifinals. The Tuckers will defend their county title at 5 p.m. Saturday against Center Moriches at Diamond in the Pines.
“I’m just so happy,” Scoggin said moments after the Tuckers pulled off the stunning victory. “I didn’t want to go home today. Senior year — got to go all the way.”
A thrilling match from the opening minutes that featured outstanding play on both sides, it ultimately came down to one final shot and one last save, the 16th for Scoggin.
With the Tuckers clinging to the one-goal lead, Southampton worked the ball deep into Mattituck territory with under a minute to play. The Tuckers couldn’t clear the ball out and the Mariners earned a throw-in from the right side near the corner with under 20 seconds left. Wyatt Schmidt raced to the ball for the throw-in and the Mariners got off one shot with under 10 seconds to play.
The ball sailed high toward Scoggin. He waited on it, leaped and pushed the ball up where it hit the crossbar of the football goalpost and the referee blew the play dead. The ball bounced right back out and Stefan Djurasic drilled it into the goal in vain for Southampton as the last few seconds ticked away.
“I was on my line, on my toes,” Scoggin said. “I was not letting anything in the net. The last shot came and I just got my fingertips to push it into the goalpost on top and the ref waved his arms.”
As the final play unfolded Mattituck coach Mat Litchult screamed for an illegal throw call. He saw the linesman raise the flag to signal it, but the referee allowed the play to continue.
“Austin made a great save and it definitely hit the crossbar for the [football goalpost] so that’s out of bounds,” Litchult said. “I was still screaming for the illegal throw.”
Scoggin made several difficult diving saves throughout the game. Litchult didn’t hesitate to call it the best game of the year for Scoggin along with his performance against Sayville, when the Tuckers defeated the top-seeded team in Class A.
“The team at times has struggled and he’s taken it personally,” Litchult said. “I think he took this game personally and wanted to put it on his shoulders.”
Southampton outplayed Mattituck for most of the second half in contrast to the first 40 minutes. The Mariners tied the game at 1 in the 46th minute when forward Yahir Terron broke free from Peter Ostrowski for a clear lane toward the goal. He drilled the ball inside the right corner just past the outstretched arms of Scoggin.
But the Tuckers fought back and received a fortunate break in the 61st minute. Junior David Burkhardt took a free kick from the right side at about 40 yards away from the goal. He sliced the ball toward the left post amid a crowd of players.
Southampton goalkeeper Ben Moritz jumped to punch the ball away, but the ball trickled off his fingertips behind him and into the goal.
“Originally we had a play where we were going to pass it around, then shoot,” Burkhardt said. “But I guess they wanted to send the bigger guys in for the rebound. I just put it up and it went in.”
“We told Burkhardt wherever it is, if we’re deep, just drive it on net,” Litchult said. “You never know what happens.”
The Mariners kept coming after the Tuckers regained the lead. One of their best chances for an equalizer came in the 76th minute off a free kick from straightaway. Djurasic delivered the ball toward the goal from about 34 yards away and Marcelo Carvalho had a golden chance in front but couldn’t convert.
The Tuckers (10-6-1) and Mariners (15-1-1) have developed a fierce rivalry thanks to consistent playoff meetings. Southampton knocked out Mattituck two years ago and the Tuckers returned the favor last year in the semifinals.
Southampton won twice in the regular season this year against Mattituck.
Burkhardt vividly remembered the Mariners celebrating this year on the Tuckers’ home field.
“We wanted to beat them so bad,” he said. “They were celebrating on our field like it’s the World Cup.”
Senior Shawn Smiley put the Tuckers on the board first when he converted a feed from Stephen Urwand after Moritz couldn’t corral the ball after charging out of the goal.
“Once we outworked and got that first goal, I think we had the confidence to go out and win it,” Litchult said.
It took a team effort for the Tuckers to contain as best they could Southampton’s electrifying midfielder Matias Ruiz. He had an assist, but did not score a goal for only the third time this season. Two of those were against Mattituck. Ruiz came into the game with 24 goals.
“Our defense played amazing,” Scoggin said. “They went hard to the ball and didn’t let up anything. I can’t wait for Saturday.”