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Boys Soccer: Tardif’s OT strike keeps Tuckers unbeaten

Mattituck midfielder John Batuello, left, is challenged by Center Moriches midfielder Anthony Mascia. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Center Moriches vs. Mattituck. It’s one of the biggest high school boys soccer rivalries on Long Island.

The rivalry has been kinder to Mattituck in recent years, and that includes the kind result the Tuckers gained on Thursday.

After absorbing tremendous pressure from Center Moriches that kept them on their heels for much of the second half, the Tuckers pulled out a 3-2 triumph on Joe Tardif’s golden goal in overtime. It was Mattituck’s eighth straight win against Center Moriches, according to Tuckers coach Will Hayes.

A pass by John Batuello sent Tardif free, running down the left side. The senior forward shot to the low left where goalkeeper Deny Amaya got his fingertips to the ball but was unable to prevent it from crossing the goal line 3 minutes 1 second into overtime, sending the Tuckers into a frenzy. It was the fifth goal of the season for Tardif.

It was the defending New York State Class B champion Tuckers (6-0, 3-0 Suffolk County League VII) who had taken a 2-0 lead in the game’s opening 6:33 on a pair of well-placed headers by sophomore Axel Rodriguez-Canal. The young forward, who scored 22 goals for the junior varsity team last year, already has 11 through six games.

Rodriguez-Canal met a right-wing cross from Dan Fedun with a forceful header 3:28 after the opening kickoff. It was only 3:05 later when, on a virtual replay of the first goal, Rodriguez-Canal headed one home again, this time from a delivery by Chris Waggoner.

Center Moriches (5-2, 3-2) pulled itself back into the game with 6:33 left in the first half when Eric Amaya, assisted by Jack Wicks, nudged the ball past goalkeeper James Jacobs.

The Tuckers missed a golden chance to expand their lead when a penalty kick was awarded after Deny Amaya was judged to have taken Rodriguez-Canal down in the penalty area 69 seconds into the second half. Amaya made up for the transgression, however, diving to his left to save Rodriguez-Canal’s penalty kick and then blocking Waggoner’s followup shot as well.

The Red Devils turned up the pressure in the second half, when they outshot the Tuckers, 12-5. That pressure brought them an equalizer at 50:13. Jayson Magee’s free kick was flicked in expertly by Ben Hamilton, knotting the score at 2-2. Hamilton put five of the seven shots he took on goal.

Later in the half, the Tuckers averted further damage when Tim Schmidt made a critical clearance in the shadow of his own goal.

The Tuckers had a chance to win it in regulation time with about 90 seconds to go. Tardif struck a blazing shot off the crossbar and Fedun met the rebound, but skied the ball over the top.

Center Moriches earned 13 corner kicks to three for the Tuckers. Seventeen of the 23 fouls whistled were called against the Tuckers.

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Photo: Mattituck midfielder John Batuello, left, is challenged by Center Moriches midfielder Anthony Mascia. (Credit: Garret Meade)