The final horn at Diamond in the Pines in Coram sounded, signifying the end of the Greenport boys’ emphatic 5-1 win over Solomon Schechter in the Class C boys sub-Southeast Regional. Yet, the postgame celebration Tuesday turned out to be a rather muted one.
Instead of cheering and rushing the goalkeeper, a scene many teams have repeated after posting postseason wins at the Coram field, the players shook hands on the sideline while repeating, “For Jason, for Jason.”
Jason is Jason Cruz, the senior midfielder who was taken to Stony Brook Hospital with a broken leg he suffered in the second half.
“We’re happy with the win, but at the same time we’re not happy about Jason,” said senior striker William Chapeton, who scored twice and set up a third. “He’s like my brother. It doesn’t feel good what happened to him.”
Cruz, who scored the game-winner in the 1-0 sudden-death overtime win over Southold in Sunday’s Suffolk County final, will miss rest of the season. That includes the Southeast Regional against S.S. Seward (Section 9) in upstate Middletown at 4 p.m. Friday.
“It was very sad seeing him being taken away in an ambulance after all what he has done for the team, after all the four years on varsity,” said midfielder Kevin Azama, who added two goals. “It’s just sad.”
Greenport (12-6) dedicated the game to Cruz. “This game is definitely for Jason, all the other games,” Azama said.
Porters head coach Sean Charters had mixed emotions. He was down about losing Cruz and elated to see his team score.
“It’s great to see we can play our game and score goals,” he said. “When we played Southold, we played our game, dominated the game, we only got the one goal. Today, we got five and in a stretch after one of our best players goes out on an ambulance.”
Chapeton, who has scored eight times after a stellar 18-goal campaign in 2017, recorded his first headed goal of the season, a goal that would be worthy of a Suffolk County goal of the year. Standing in the penalty area and with his back to the net 15 yards out, Chapeton nodded the ball past goalkeeper Harry Alsfine with 17 minutes and 36 seconds remaining in the opening half.
“One of my best goals,” he said.
On Tuesday morning, Charters sent his players a text pep talk:
“Let’s get ready to go, it’s our game, it’s our time.”
Chapeton sent back a big Emoji that said, “I’m hangry.”
“I sent back a picture that said, ‘Free Willy,’ and Willy was free today. That was great to see.”
Chapeton’s second goal was more routine, hammering home a shot off the left post for a two-goal advantage with 34:33 remaining in the game.
The game was interrupted for almost 25 minutes with 20:08 remaining when Cruz and Alsfine collided in the penalty area.
“He put his heart out on the field,” Charters said, adding that Cruz told him to give Mateo Arias the captain’s armband “and tell him to not disrespect it as in saying, ‘You play with heart,’ as Greenport plays with heart. It’s tough when you lose a player like Cruz to bounce back and play the way we did. That’s great to see them come out of that break and continue to play the way we dominated today.”
The Porters struck for three goals in slightly over 2:21, as Azama scored off a Chapeton assist with 8:10 to go, David Pineda buried a Josue Gomez rebound with 6:50 left and Azama completed his first career brace with a shot from distance with 5:49 remaining.
“Kevin is one of my favorite guys on this team,” Charters said. “He may be a sophomore, but that kid’s got skill that’s way greater than a sophomore. He’s going to be a great soccer player. He only hides on the team with this many great players.”
Lions midfielder Ethan Sidelsky pulled one back, curling a low 20-yard free kick around the defensive wall into the far-right corner with 1:37 remaining. “Unfortunately, too little, too late,” Schechter coach Bryan Lamana said.
“Definitely a tough game for us,” Sidelsky said. “Just going to give credit to Greenport because they’re really good. They just outplayed us. Props to them for that. I wish them luck going forward.”
The match turned out to be an emotional one for Schechter (7-9) as well. Schehter is a Jewish school located in Hartsdale in Westchester. To remember and honor 11 members of a Pittsburgh synagogue that died in Saturday’s horrific shooting, the players and coaches wore green warm-up shirts that said:
“Before our Saturday sectional final, we heard the news early in the morning,” Sidelsky said of the Section 1 final win over Alexander Hamilton. “It’s something that was definitely on our minds and we had them on our minds when we tried to play for them. For this game we wanted to get some T-shirts represent them. We wanted to get a win for them to keep them in our hearts, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. But we gave it all we had.”
Photo caption: Greenport’s Jason Cruz, center, pictured in the Porters’ win against Southold one game earlier. (Credit: Garret Meade)