For 93 minutes and 10 seconds, Mattituck High School senior goalkeeper Emmett Ryan lived up to the number on his uniform. Zero.
As in the number of goals he had conceded up to that point to host Center Moriches in an intense boys soccer game on Wednesday night.
Ryan was brilliant, holding off the defending Suffolk County Class B champions with eight saves, a couple of them spectacular.
“Just a tough game,” he said. “It’s probably the first time I was tired from playing goalkeeper. They really wore us out, but we played really hard. I’m proud of everyone on this team for that effort.”
As well as he played, Ryan could not produce a ninth save at 93:11 as the Red Devils finally solved him with a Byron Miguel-Perez goal from atop of the penalty area to secure a 1-0 victory in the second overtime of the League VII confrontation.
The sting of defeat did not deter Tuckers coach Will Hayes from appreciating Ryan’s performance.
“This is probably his best,” he said. “This game, this is his opus. He dealt with everything that came into his box. He was calm under pressure, made good decisions on the ball and his positioning was excellent on their free kicks.
“He could not do anything about the last goal. This was not a game he shied away from. He really stepped up to the plate and owned the team today.”
Ryan’s most memorable save came only minutes prior at 91:14 when he tipped away a shot before grabbing the ball after it bounced off the crossbar.
Ryan was forced to wait two years to become the starter because James Jacobs had a four-year run as the No. 1 keeper. He sat in his sophomore year and missed half his junior season with an injury before getting some minutes after a Jacobs injury.
“He didn’t get many minutes last year, but he definitely stepped up to the challenge,” center back Chris Nicholson said. “He has worked his butt off in the offseason and in practices every day. He definitely earned it and it showed tonight.”
In contrast to many other youth goalkeepers are who thrown into the position, Ryan gravitated to it seven years ago. He was so into it his mother bought him goalkeeper gloves.
“I definitely wanted to be in the goal,” he said. “I wanted that to be me, looking up to the older varsity guys. That’s what I want to be.”
On Wednesday night, Ryan’s teammates were looking up to him.
The Mattituck-Center Moriches derby dates back to 1936 — the Tuckers’ first year as a soccer team — and is considered the best rivalry on Long Island. These games are intense affairs and this one lived up to its billing.
“For people who say a 0-0 game is not entertaining, that was a very entertaining game with chances both ways and big defensive plays,” Center Moriches coach Chris O’Brien said. “Near misses, posts. It had everything. Four yellow cards at once.
“We’ve got a good feeling we’re going to see these guys again and it’ll be another war.”
That would be in the Class B playoffs. As many as five teams can clinch berths (teams need at least a .500 league record). Southampton (10-0, 1-0) leads, followed by Center Moriches (7-2-1, 7-2-1), Mattituck (6-4, 6-4), Babylon (5-3-1, 5-3-1) and Hampton Bays (5-4, 5-4). The first goal is to avoid a play-in match, the second goal is to secure home-field advantage in the semifinals.
“It’s vital,” Ryan said. “Every little thing is going to matter in this league — it’s so tight — such as home-field advantage. Any other advantage you can get over the other, it would be a big deal.”
“We’re two wins from being in the playoffs, which is great,” he said, noting that Mattituck twice lost to Center Moriches by 1-0 scores, while the Red Devils dropped a 1-0 decision to Hampton Bays and tied Babylon, which defeated Hampton Bays. Hampton Bays is Mattituck’s next opponent on Friday.
“So, it’s a rugby scrum to get over the finish line,” he said. “The critical thing is winning your home games and turning your home into a fortress. We can’t dwell on this. We have to have a closers’ mentality, put it behind us and get out for the next one. It’s all to play for on Friday. We beat Hampton Bays and we control our own future again.”