Southold certainly wasn’t a long shot to win in the Suffolk County Class C boys soccer semifinals.
Still, the First Settlers used three long shots to down North Fork rival Greenport, 3-0, Thursday to reach the final for the seventh consecutive time and for the 12th time in the past 13 seasons.
Then again, so were the goals for Southold (14-2-1), which Ryan Herrmann, Luis Herrera and Edwin Martinez scored from considerable distance as goalkeeper Cole Brigham made some key saves down the stretch.
There was plenty of electricity in the crowd prior to the opening kickoff as several hundred spectators lined the north side of the field. The audience was dominated by Southold, which had students from the junior and senior high schools and from the nearby Southold Elementary School. Greenport had a busload or two of students.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” Greenport coach Sean Charters said. “I told my guys before the game it’s going to be one of the most memorable games you’ll play, win or lose.”
Martinez said he fed off the fans’ exuberance. “I was excited because I had never seen these fans before,” he said. “I was playing with that energy that gave to me.”
Added Southold coach Andrew Sadowski: “I wasn’t surprised at the level of people that came, the level of play, the quality of play was fairly good from both sides at times. They want to beat us and we want to beat them. Isn’t that what high school sports are about?”
Sadowski wanted his team to shoot from long range for two reasons — tactical so teams couldn’t gang up on Joe Silvestro and Herrmann and to take advantage of the rain that made the ball slippery to handle.
Both teams played an intense, high-paced game with forward William Chapeton’s skill and runs making life miserable for the hosts. The Porters (10-7) had an offside goal called back before Mateo Arias-Roldan converted a penalty kick with 16 minutes and 18 seconds left in the first half.
“We started off slow,” Sadowski said. “That was our problem. We couldn’t get ourselves settled in. I think their emotions got them for a bit, but they continued to work hard. I don’t understand them. They like going a goal down before they come back and win. It’s frustrating.”
The deficit didn’t last for long as Herrmann scored his 19th goal of the season directly off a corner kick — known as an Olimpico goal — with 15:16 remaining in the half.
“I was actually trying to put it into the net,” Herrmann said. “I was aiming for the back post, not for the front. It worked out just as well, so I’m not going to complain.”
It was Herrmann’s second Olimpico goal this season, a rarity.
“He has the ability to hit the ball so it moves,” Sadowski said. “You’ve got to get a little bit of luck. You’ve got to get the wind. He hit a good ball. I thought he was going to score another one.”
With only 55 seconds remaining in the half, Herrera drilled a 35-yard shot that goalkeeper David Jenkins got a hand on at the left post, but the ball squirted loose and slowly … over the line for a 2-1 lead, his fourth goal of the year.
“We knew it was going to rain, so we knew that when the ball bounces it’s slippery, too,” Herrera said. “The coach keeps telling us, ‘If you have a chance to score, just shoot it.’ We’ve got to listen to our coach.”
Martinez added an insurance tally off a 35-yard free kick that went through Jenkins’s hands with 24:16 to go in the match for his first goal this season.
“I knew that that would happen,” Martinez said. “I just hit the ball. It bounced, and the goalkeeper let it go.”
The Settlers will take on a familiar foe in Saturday’s county final — Pierson. Those two rivals have clashed for the title the past four years with Southold prevailing three times, the Whalers last season.
Sadowski is hopeful his team will win.
“I believe the way we play, we have a very good shot,” he said. “If we can get ourselves out of the emotion of it, I think we’ll be fine.”
Charters wished his foes luck. “I’m confident of them going into the Class C final and hopefully they can bring back the title to the North Fork,” he said.
While his team was eliminated, Charters was encouraged by Greenport’s season as the Porters improved from seventh to third place in League VIII.
“This was a very important step,” he said. “This is what our goal was. We wanted to make it to the playoffs. I’m bringing back 14 out of our 16 guys next year, 10 out of 11 starters. The future’s bright, but this was good to get to this point so we can test the waters. We played a playoff game for the first time in five years and we have the experience. Next year we roll in and we’ve got to be ready.”