Surprising blowout brings Tuckers League VII title

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck's Oscar Puluc, right, tracking down Center Moriches' Josue Lazo-Molina.
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck’s Oscar Puluc, right, tracking down Center Moriches’ Josue Lazo-Molina.


When the Mattituck and Center Moriches boys soccer teams tussle, they usually play close, classic confrontations. Wednesday’s encounter proved to be the exception, thanks an exceptional performance by the Tuckers.

Sparked by three first-half goals, including two scores within a 31-second span, Mattituck recorded a stunning 5-0 home triumph over their archrivals.

Now, Center Moriches (10-2-1, 7-2-1 League VII) is hardly your everyday, run-of-the-mill high school team. The Red Devils are among the best among Class B teams, having won the 2009 state title.

Kaan Ilgin was credited with two goals and set up both of Mario Arreola’s scores. Kevin Williams converted a penalty kick to lift the Tuckers (11-2, 10-1) to the League VII crown in arguably one of their best performances of the season with the Suffolk County Class B semifinals looming on Oct. 30.

“It was one of our better overall performances,” Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult said. “We scored some great goals. The guys played from start to finish. Center Moriches plays so hard all the time, puts you under so much pressure and the guys handled it very well. We executed a lot of things we talked about in practice. When it translates to the game, it’s nice.”

Litchhult downplayed the huge final margin.

“We can’t sit back and think we’re five goals better than Center Moriches on any given day because we’re not,” he said. “Are we a good, solid team? Yes. We have to get a little reality check, look at the game on a whole. Did we dominate possession, did we dominate chances? One hundred percent. We have to temper down the score.”

Center Moriches coach Chris O’Brien felt his team had some work to do.

“We just got beat in all aspects of the game,” he said. “It wasn’t our day. We’ve got to be better than this. This wasn’t our typical team. This certainly wasn’t our ‘A’ game. They played very well. All credit to them. They scored some beautiful goals.”

The game dramatically changed during a 31-second span. Ilgin’s hard left-wing cross resulted in the first goal with 30:48 remaining in the first half, going off defender Cameron Stankelis.

“I saw people just running to the goal and I just hit it as hard as I could,” Ilgin said. “I knew it was going to hit someone.”

Only 31 seconds later, Stankelis fouled Williams in the box. Williams converted past goalkeeper Peter Connolly and into the left corner.

Then came the first “beautiful” highlight goal with 20:56 remaining. Ilgin bolted past two midfielders and found Arreola on the left side before his teammate slotted the ball back to him for a 3-0 lead.

“That’s what we always do,” Arreola said. “We always know where we are. I don’t know how to explain it. We just know where we are.”

Litchhult believed that goal put the Tuckers over the hump.

“Three-nil makes it a game where you have a comfortable lead,” he said. “Our third goal on a counter was probably one of the best soccer goals. Unselfish between Mario and Kaan. Just a super play. That goal kind of puts the game to bed.”

After Arreola’s first goal 96 seconds into the second half, he scored a highlight-reel goal of his own with 14:32 left in the match, volleying home an Ilgin corner kick.

“He was wide open,” Ilgin said. “They didn’t mark him. Usually on the corners they don’t mark short players, so I bent it to him. Nice volley, upper 90.”

The Tuckers faced adversity when a bloodied senior keeper Steve Ostrowski was forced from the game with 6:18 left in the first half with a cut on his nose. Junior Ben Knowles came on and acquitted himself well.

“It’s a big spot for a backup keeper who doesn’t have a lot of experience to step in and take the starter’s job the rest of the game,” Litchhult said. “We always talk about next year and how he’s going to try to take over and fill Steve’s shoes, and I think he will do a great job. Today it came a little bit earlier. … He gained some good experience.”

The game ended on a somber note as Center Moriches midfielder Matt Argyropoulos suffered an apparent left knee injury with 51.1 seconds remaining.

“It looks like it’s pretty serious,” O’Brien said.

With darkness descending, the referees called the game early.