Boys Soccer: Rare game between former rivals turned friends

Now here’s a scene you don’t necessarily see much of these days.

In the waning moments of Mattituck’s 2-0 victory over Southold in a Town of Brookhaven Boys Soccer Summer League game Monday night, First Settlers goalkeeper John Charles Funke congratulated the Tuckers defender-turned-striker Walter Jacob for scoring the insurance goal.

“It was all and all a friendly game for me,” Funke said at the Patchogue-Medford Youth Soccer Complex. “I shook my friend’s hand and congratulated him because they finally deserved it.”

And here’s a scene you won’t see at all this coming school season: Southold playing Mattituck in a game.

Yes, the two North Fork neighbors will meet each other in a Sept. 3 scrimmage, but it won’t be counted in the standings.

For years, the Tuckers and the First Settlers had one of most enduring rivalries, playing in the same league and classification. But that has changed since Mattituck moved up to from Class C to B in 2005 due to the increase of the number of students attending the high school.

“I tell the kids stories about the checkered history of Southold and Mattituck and they look at me like I have three heads because it doesn’t happen any more,” Bill Hayes, the high school assistant coach who directs the summer league team, said. “The rivals now are Center Moriches and the Hamptons because we’re the same size. I know for me, my wife and I’m pretty sure for [head coach Mat Litchhult] there is a certain extra sentiment towards beating Southold that makes me feel good. It used to be a huge rivalry. Huge.”

Litchhult agreed. “It’s a pride thing,” he said. “It’s something that’s a North Fork thing. You still want to beat Southold. But overall, I would say through the last 10 years the rivalry has diminished some because of the separation of leagues and class.”

Jacob, whose team improved to 6-1, said there was a difference between Southold (3-3-1) and Center Moriches. The Tuckers won the Class B crown last year, the First Settlers the Class C title.

“I don’t know a lot of players on Center Moriches like friends,” he said. “This is like playing against your friends. It’s a good rivalry because they’re very good. When we play against Center Moriches we get mad. Here, it’s just frustrating because we don’t get to show off to our friends who we haven’t played in a while.”

So, the rare meetings have been reduced to non-league or summer-league encounters. Even for a summer league game, both sides performed with intensity, even if one friend was trying to stop another from scoring.

“During the game, barely know him, but off the field, he’s a good kid,” Funke said.

Funke stood on his head during the 60-minute match that was threatened by rain, making at least 10 saves and denying James Hayes, Brian Doherty and Jacob before Hayes finally broke through in the 25th minute.

“Sometimes he keeps us in the game singlehandedly,” assistant coach Lucas Grigonis said. “Our defense still has to work through some things, but we’re very lucky to have him to fall back on to. He always brings it.”

As superb as Funke was, he was not perfect as Jacob found the back of the net on a breakaway with barely a minute remaining.

“He played amazing,” Jacob said. “He was absolutely fantastic. He knew exactly where to be when he had to make a save.”

Funke and company will get another crack at Mattituck on Sept. 3.

“When we do have that scrimmage, we treat it as a real game,” Grigonis said.

Sounds like there’s still some sort of spark in that old rivalry after all.