FIRST SETTLERS 5, PORTERS 0
Mother Nature’s cruel punishment of the northeast made it seem like the Section XI boys soccer playoffs may never begin. First a hurricane, then an nor’easter blanketing much of the region with snow.
By the time No. 2 Southold and No. 3 Greenport/Shelter Island took the field for the opening round playoff match in the Class C playoffs, the weather still wasn’t cooperating. Frigid temperatures, heavy wind and a wintery mix of precipitation at the start of Thursday’s game didn’t exactly make for ideal playing conditions.
But after more than two weeks without a game, both teams were thrilled just to finally get back on the field.
“You want to play in the snow and freezing rain,” said Southold coach Andrew Sadowski. “That’s what it’s about.”
The First Settlers seized the moment, outworking the Porters for a 5-0 victory at Southold High School that sends them into the county finals Saturday afternoon at Diamond in the Pines.
Senior Evan Miller scored the first three goals, bringing his season total to a Long Island-leading 28. Senior Muhammet Ilgin added the final two goals late in the second half. They were the first goals he scored this season.
Greenport finished the season 6-9-2 overall. After stumbling out of the gates and losing their first four games by a total of 20-1, the Porters rebounded to finish the League VIII season in third place.
“People said we’ll be lucky to win a game,” said Greenport coach Chris Golden. “We ended up going 6-4-2 and making the playoffs. Great job for these guys.”
The First Settlers (13-4) will play for their first county title since 2008. They’ll face either undefeated Port Jefferson or fourth-seeded Pierson, which play their semifinal match Friday. Port Jefferson defeated Southold in the county finals last year and is the defending Class C state champion. The Royals won 4-0 in both games against Southold this season.
Against the Porters Southold struck early when Miller converted a penalty kick just 2 1/2 minutes into the game.
After such a long break without a game, scoring an early goal gave the First Settlers a quick boost. With the wind to their back for the first half, the First Settlers needed to strike early in the game.
Miller was set up beautifully for his second goal with 10 minutes left in the first half. Junior Drew Sacher dribbled along the end line and sent a pass over the middle parallel to the goal. The ball skipped past a Greenport defender to the far post where Miller was waiting all by himself.
“With this team it’s always are we going to take advantage of our talent?” Sadowski said. “And I think today we did.”
Golden said the First Settlers simply dominated the action.
“They outplayed us,” he said. “You got to tip your hat to them. They deserved the game.”
The Porters didn’t get many chances offensively, especially in the first half when they were facing a stiff wind, which made it difficult to pass the ball up field.
In the second half they did get six corner kicks, but couldn’t capitailze on any of those chances.
“They have a lot of talent and we certainly expected that they would come back in the second half when they had the wind,” Sadowski said. “We told our guys we got to play the ball on the ground, play with patience, play with our skill.”
The First Settlers actually ended up scoring more goals in the second half going into the wind.
Miller made it a hat trick when he scored with 11:34 left in the half. A minute later, after a near collision, Miller took a seat on the bench for the rest of the game as Sadowski didn’t want to risk any sort of injury with the game well in hand.
Sacher, a key goal-scorer for the First Settlers all season, turned into more of a playmaker against Greenport, dishing out three assists.
“It’s not necessarily his role, it’s kind of what’s developed,” Sadowski said. “He prides himself on the ability to create and lay passes off.”
Sadowski also praised the effort of Zach Ellis defensively.
“He was dynamite in the back today,” he said.
Southold goalkeeper Kenji Fujita made eight saves. Greenport goalkeeper Austin Hooks stopped seven shots.
Miller missed a golden opportunity to score a goal in the first half when he drilled the ball off the right post while only a few yards in front of the goal.
Sadowski said hitting the ball with power at that point against a strong goalkeeper was the right play.
“The other two games we played during the year [Hooks] was in the right position at the right time and made some very good saves,” Sadowski said. “Evan trying to hit it with power and strength, I think that’s still the right call.”
Southold swept all three games against the Porters this year. It was the second straight year Southold ended Greenport’s season in the playoffs.