ROYALS 4, FIRST SETTLERS 0
Not only did the Port Jefferson boys soccer team not lose any starters from its 2011 New York State Class C championship team, but it appears as if the Royals haven’t lost a step, either. In fact, coach John Poulianos said he believes this year’s team is even better than the 2011 version. That has to be a sobering thought for Port Jefferson’s opponents in Suffolk County League VIII.
Southold gained an up close and personal appreciation of what Port Jefferson has when the two rivals, who also happen to be the two top teams in League VIII, met on Monday at Southold High School. Connor Crovello was involved in all four goals as Port Jefferson romped, 4-0. The senior left outside midfielder assisted on the first three goals by Vincent Antonelli, Reiner Scheurich and James Murphy before scoring himself from a header off a free kick that Blake Bohlen swerved across the goalmouth.
“Today was Connor’s day,” Poulianos said. “He’s always a threat.”
Port Jefferson (5-0, 3-0) enjoyed the added benefit of playing with a one-man advantage for the final 39 minutes 15 seconds. Southold forward Evan Miller picked up a second yellow card for dissent and was sent off the field, leaving the First Settlers (5-3, 3-1) with 10 players. The score was 3-0 at the time. Miller and Port Jefferson’s Gerard Racanelli were both shown yellow cards in the first half for unsportsmanlike conduct after they exchanged words with each other.
It was a rough afternoon for Miller who, because of the ejection, must sit out Southold’s next game on Wednesday at Smithtown Christian. In the 11th minute, while jumping to attempt a header, Miller was struck in the head by goalkeeper Gabe Davis (six saves). After play was stopped while he was attended to, Miller held his head as he walked off the field, but he went straight to the middle of the sideline to re-enter the game at the next opportunity.
“We came out hard,” Crovello said. “We played with tenacity. You always need that for these games, especially Southold, with the rivalry and everything.”
Southold saw the game as a measuring stick to see where it stacks up against the defending state champions. “It’s just very disappointing that we came out so slow,” coach Andrew Sadowski said. “The three goals in the first half, there was hesitancy all over the right side of the midfield and the back.”
It was the first time the teams played each other since last fall when Port Jefferson scored a 3-0 victory over Southold in the county final.
Port Jefferson-Southold games are often physical affairs, and this match was no different. A total of six cards were shown and 42 fouls were whistled. Both totals would have been larger had the officials seen Port Jefferson’s Cihad Akkaya strike Southold’s Benjamin Glew in the back, sending him to the ground in the 61st minute. Glew rose to his feet and walked toward Akkaya as if he was going to retaliate, but he restrained himself at the urging of the Southold bench.
“That’s a straight red” card, Sadowski said. Sadowski said the Royals are “very talented. They play extremely well together. They’re extremely physical and they get away with a lot, but you still have to deal with it, and we kind of didn’t.”
Crovello’s dribbling and passing skills helped Port Jefferson to a 3-0 halftime lead.
The first goal came in the 19th minute. Crovello charged down the left side before delivering an accurate service for Antonelli to tuck in.
The second goal involved a nice piece of team play in the 35th minute. Touches by Bohlen and Crovello set up the strike by Scheurich.
It was only 94 seconds later when Murphy knocked in his goal, aided by Crovello.
Asked to assess his performance, Crovello, who put all four of his shots on goal, said: “I played well. I worked hard. That’s what I do. Sometimes it ends up on the stats looking better than other games, but every game I just try to play my hardest.”
Bohlen was unfortunate not to have a couple more goals. He was denied early in the game when his forceful left-footed shot was nicely parried off the crossbar by diving goalkeeper Kenji Fujita (seven saves). Then, late in the contest, Bohlen struck the crossbar again during a frenzied sequence.
“We came ready to play today,” Poulianos said. “It was a very big game. I knew it would get physical because traditionally Southold-Port Jeff games go that route, but today we really played well, and it showed.”
Winning the team’s first state crown last year is a treasured memory for the Royals, but Poulianos noted that it also comes with some baggage. For one thing, Port Jefferson is a target for opponents who want to make a name for themselves by defeating the defending state champions. And then there is that matter of 2011 being a tough act to follow for the Royals.
“Where do we go after winning a state title?” Poulianos asked. “There’s only one thing that for them is going to be considered a successful season.”
The First Settlers wore black armbands on their left arms in remembrance of Sadowski’s late father, Edward, a former Glen Cove High School and SUNY/Farmingdale soccer player who died one year and five days earlier. They would have liked to have made a better showing for the occasion.
Southold forward Drew Sacher said, “Everyone’s really disappointed with how we played because we should have played harder and we should have had a better result.”