Dane Reda knows his strengths and weaknesses.
“I’m not the greatest soccer player, but I can run fast, so …,” he said.
So, the Mattituck High School junior midfielder put his best foot forward Saturday. Actually, it was both feet and he certainly was great enough and fast enough Saturday, setting up the first goal and striking for the game-winner as the Tuckers spoiled Southold’s homecoming game with a 2-1 Suffolk County League VII victory.
The win boosted the Tuckers (7-4, 6-2) into the Suffolk Class B playoffs with four regular-season league games remaining. After enduring a three-game losing streak, they have won four matches in a row, having outscored their foes, 23-4, during that span.
“We’re comfortable,” Mattituck coach Will Hayes said. “We’re discovering what our identity is as a team. I like the direction we’re moving in.”
Added junior forward Jack Burkhardt, who tallied the first goal: “The team’s feeling itself now. Compared to last year’s season, we’re doing great.”
Last year the Tuckers barely reached the postseason, losing to eventual state champion Center Moriches in the county Class B final, 6-0.
On Saturday, Burkhardt admitted he had a feeling of déjà vu back to the 2-1 loss at Center Moriches Sept. 17 thanks to the sizable Southold crowd and intensity of both teams.
“It felt playing against Center Moriches with all the fans here today,” he said. “The mentality everyone had. Everyone played their hearts out.”
That included Reda.
With the score deadlocked at 1-1, Reda latched onto a Charlie Bordsen pass and found himself on a brilliant 50-yard run on the left side during a counterattack. He homed in on goalkeeper Cole Brigham and fired a shot into the lower far post with 33 minutes and 50 seconds left in the second half.
“I try not to think because I feel when I think then I mess up my dribble and mess up the opportunity to score,” said Reda, who has five goals and five assists this season.
“The goal was fantastic,” Burkhardt said. “I was not expecting it all. It was top class.”
Burkhardt, who has a team-best 12 goals and nine assists, had his big moment with 28:24 remaining in the opening half as Reda fed him before drilling a 16-yard shot past Brigham for a 1-0 lead.
“Jack hit a ball up to me and I ran it down,” Reda said. “I heard him call my name to my right side and I hit it with my left foot. Somehow it went right to him and he finished it like he usually does.”
Southold (5-4, 5-3) equalized on sophomore forward Daniel Palencia’s goal from atop the box past goalkeeper James Jacobs with 22:23 remaining in the first half.
“It was just an unmarked man,” Jacobs said. “He was wide open, and he blasted it home. Nothing I really could have done about that except fix our marks. It was a learning time right there.”
Hayes has been encouraged with how Burkhardt and Red have emerged as a dynamic attacking force. “Jack and Dane are developing quite a relationship up top,” he said.
The Tuckers haven’t had a lethal striker since Kaan Ilgin and Mario Arreola formed a dangerous duo during the team’s run to the 2014 state championship.
“Jack is really stepping into those boots,” Hayes said. “They’re playing off each other really well and they’re offering different aspects of the game that we may not have had at the same time. We have a big, physical forward and a crafty central midfielder who can move the ball. With some of the pieces that we have in central midfield and out wide, we’ve become a much more well-rounded team.”
As for Reda’s remark about not being a great soccer player, Hayes chimed in. “Dane is a very good lacrosse player,” he said. “In soccer he understands movement. He understands patterns and understands what needs to happen on the field in order to be successful. Dane’s first touch doesn’t really come around until about halfway through the season, where we are now. It’s no coincidence that he’s been scoring in the last four games. He’s been put in positions in front of the goal where his first touch has improved significantly.”
During pregame ceremonies Andrew Sadowski was honored for his 25-year tenure as Southold’s coach.
“I would have preferred to have won,” he said, “because that’s what I do. I coach them to win.”
Sadowski received a proclamation from the Suffolk County Legislature and a gift from the high school.
“It’s nice to be recognized,” he said. “The thing that I was very pleased about was my wife and my daughter were here. All the time spent away from them, they got to see what I have been trying to do with the young men of Southold and now they’re old men, too.”
Sadowski was referring to the several dozen former First Settlers players who attended homecoming and participated in an alumni game afterwards.