The pain of defeat was just too much for at least one inconsolable young person on the Mattituck side of the soccer field. Tuckers coach Will Hayes tried his best to comfort the distraught youngster, but the bawling continued.
It wasn’t one of Hayes’ players, but his 8-year-old son, Owen. Mattituck’s 4-1 loss to rival Center Moriches in a Suffolk County Class B semifinal Wednesday was just too much for him to take.
“He’s very upset,” Hayes said after his son left the Center Moriches field with his 4-year-old sister, Evelyn, and their mother, Jen. “He’s very excitable. He thought we were going to come in here and win.”
The third-seeded Tuckers (10-7) couldn’t cry, however, about their effort against the defending state champions. It was a 1-1 score until Center Moriches (11-4-2) broke the game open with three late goals within a span of 5 minutes and 27 seconds.
“We gave it our all,” Mattituck senior center back Bryce Grathwohl said. “We played with a lot of heart today, and the last 10 minutes it sort of fell apart.”
Center Moriches will play No. 1 Babylon or No. 4 Hampton Bays in the county final Sunday at Diamond in the Pines in Coram.
It wasn’t a kick or a header that turned this game so much as a throw — a long throw-in by Center Moriches’ Matt Alifano. His throw-in ricocheted around the Mattituck penalty area. Jack Mahoney got a touch on the ball and then teammate Mike Batholomew put it away for a 2-1 lead with 10:05 left in the second half.
Alifano’s long throw-ins had an impact on the game, putting the Mattituck defense under pressure.
“That was the difference in the game, really, for me,” Hayes said. “Alifano’s long throw-ins were a constant threat for us. It’s like being under seige in a trench. Eventually you break.”
A cutting pass by Jack Wicks sent Tommy Luongo through and the senior forward flicked the ball past goalkeeper James Jacobs 3:45 later for his second goal of the game.
Wicks wrapped things up with 4:38 left to play. A hard shot by Bartholomew was stopped by Jacobs (six saves), but Wicks was in place to tuck in the rebound.
“You could really see our team deflate after they gave up that (second) goal,” said Hayes.
Mattituck didn’t get off to the sort of start it wanted. Jacobs, looking to distribute the ball, threw it toward defender Bryan Soto, but Soto wasn’t looking. Center Moriches’ Ryan McDermott swept in, intercepted the pass, dribbled the ball to the right end line and drove a ball that Jacobs got a piece of. It wasn’t enough, though, to prevent it from being knocked in on Luongo’s first-time shot 5:40 into the match.
“It was a miscue between the goalkeeper and the left back,” Hayes told reporters. “James thought that the left back, Bryan Soto, was ready for the ball, and Bryan thought that he was going to punt the ball up the field, so when James threw the ball out, Bryan didn’t know about it. So, it’s not any one player’s fault. They need to communicate better in that circumstance. As a result of that, we gave up a very costly goal because of a miscue between two good players, and that happens.”
Mattituck fought its way back. Alp Kilinc fired in an equalizer with his left foot before Center Moriches’ Mike Luongo could close in on him at 28:42. Dane Reda assisted.
“I think we gave them as good a game as we possibly could give them and in the end the wheels fell off,” said Hayes, whose team lost to Center Moriches, 2-1, on Sept. 17. Mattituck might have gone up a goal, but a low shot by Reda was well saved by Curtis Copenhaver at 56:19.
Tommy Luongo ripped a blazing shot over the crossbar with 15:27 left in the match.
“I think we went out there and gave it our all,” said Jacobs, who did well to push a wicked shot by Tommy Luongo over the crossbar with 14:57 left in the first half.
While it may not be as intense as it once was, Mattituck-Center Moriches is still a big rivalry.
“In terms of rivalries, it’s one of the big ones, but there’s not a lot of the venom that there used to be,” Hayes said. “I mean, there would be heavy tackles all over the field and there would be fights breaking out in the stands. Now it’s just two teams that respect each other.”
Hayes called this a “growth season” for his team. Mattituck started five seniors Wednesday: Charlie Bordsen, Jake Catalano, Grathwohl, Jacobs and Kilinc. Another senior, Kyle Schwartz, came off the bench and played most of the game. Hayes said junior center back Chris Nicholson, who had battled illness throughout the week, played “extremely well.”
Jacobs said: “I was happy with how we did this year. It just (stinks) that it ends.”
Photo caption: Mattituck’s Dane Reda (left) and Center Moriches’ Matt Alifano duel for the ball during their Suffolk County Class B semifinal Wednesday. (Credit: Bob Liepa)