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Top Sports Stories 2018: Greenport soccer plays for Cruz

The Greenport High School boys soccer team did just about everything it could to win its biggest game in a decade for a fallen teammate. Everything, that is, except win.

Not that the Porters didn’t try their darnedest.

With senior midfielder Jason Cruz hospitalized with a broken left leg, an injury he incurred in a grisly collision during Greenport’s 5-1 regional Class C semifinal win over Solomon Schechter, the Porters moved on. On the way to Middletown High School for their first regional final since 2005, the Porters stopped at Stony Brook University Hospital to visit Cruz. Then they did all they could to try to earn a place in the state semifinals.

It didn’t happen.

Despite playing their third game in five days, the Porters brought plenty of energy, from start to finish in the regional final. Greenport built a 27-6 shots advantage and earned seven of the game’s eight corner kicks, but was rewarded for its considerable efforts with a cruel defeat.

S.S. Seward’s stubborn defense paid off when senior Matt Stam knocked in a goal 2 minutes and 56 seconds into sudden-victory overtime for a stunning 1-0 triumph. The Porters were devastated.

“I never expected that,” senior forward William Chapeton said. “We dominated the whole game. We had the possession. We had the shots.”

They didn’t have Cruz.

It was Cruz who scored at 4:56 of sudden-victory overtime to defeat Southold, 1-0, in the county final for Greenport’s first county title since 2008. Southold and Greenport won county crowns as a combined team in 1987 and 1993.

The Porters had brought a tackling dummy dressed in a Greenport soccer T-shirt and shorts with Cruz’s No. 6 and propped it up against their bench in his honor. Seward, meanwhile, played for center midfielder John Guerra, who was killed in a car accident July 23. He would have been a senior.

“It was a highly emotional game,” Greenport coach Sean Charters said. “We wanted this for Jason, and they get the opportunity to do it for John.”

The Porters had quite a season, going 12-7 and winning their first county championship in 10 years. “All around, I think this is one of the better Greenport teams we’ve ever had,” said Charters.

In his pep talk to his teammates during their pregame hospital visit, Cruz foresaw the possibility of defeat.

Chapeton said, “He told us even if we lost to keep our heads high.”

Photo caption: Jason Cruz of Greenport. (Credit: Garret Meade)

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