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Boys Soccer: Tuckers will face familiar rival in playoff opener

The endings to the Mattituck High School boys soccer team’s past three seasons have had a common theme. They have all involved playoff losses to Center Moriches.

Mattituck coach Will Hayes can recite those three game scores by memory. They add up to the Tuckers being outscored, 14-2.

That doesn’t sound good, but then again, consider the caliber of the opponent. Those were some of the best teams Center Moriches ever fielded, including a state champion team in 2017.

This year’s Center Moriches team is still highly skilled and not an opponent to be taken lightly. Having said that, the Red Devils don’t carry that air of invincibility that they had two years ago. They finished in second place in Suffolk County League VII, one place behind champion Southampton and one place ahead of Mattituck.

“We understand that they’re a good opponent,” Hayes said. “Moreover, they respect what we can do.”

The newest page to an historic rivalry that began in 1936 — the first year Mattituck fielded a team — will be written Wednesday when the teams meet in a Suffolk Class B semifinal in Center Moriches.

Center Moriches (12-2-2), seeking a fourth straight county championship, is 7-0-1 in its previous eight games. The Red Devils won both of their league matches against Mattituck (9-6-1). Both were 1-0 affairs. The most recent of those, on Oct. 2, was settled with Byron Miguel-Perez scoring from atop the penalty area in the second overtime.

Center Moriches is led by junior midfielder Mike Luongo, who has registered 12 goals and four assists this season.

Hayes said Mattituck has been playing good soccer. “We’re ready to go,” he said. “We’re very much the complete article right now. We know what we’re doing. We have no injuries, no disciplinary nonsense. We’re probably in the best shape squad-wise going into the playoffs that we’ve been in a long time.”

Mattituck has been getting good production from junior forward Berkan Ilgin (12 goals, six assists), senior forward Jack Burkhardt (seven goals, 15 assists), senior midfielder Bryan Flores (four goals, three assists) and senior defender Chris Nicholson (four goals, two assists).

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Emmett Ryan has been having a fine season. The senior has a 9-6-1 record, four shutouts and 69 saves.

“He’s playing some of the best soccer that I’ve seen him play,” Hayes said. “It’s kind of a requirement that whoever wins that [Center Moriches] game, the goalkeeper has to have a good game.”

League VII provided good playoff preparation for both teams, among five from the league headed into the postseason.

“Southampton kind of showed that they were the class of the league, but the reality is every team in the league has its strengths and weaknesses,” Hayes said. “There’s a lot of good, high-quality players on all the teams.”

So, do the Tuckers have any lineup changes in store for Wednesday’s game?

“I’m not at liberty to divulge that,” Hayes said. “We have a lot of quality players and we want to use as many as we can.”

This is a rivalry, Hayes said, that wanes and waxes over the years. “I think we kind of moved onto a period of less animosity to more mutual respect,” he said. “In the end, it’s a rivalry that stands 80-plus years. There’s a lot of actors and eras.”

Asked if the Tuckers are ready for the playoffs, Hayes said, “They’re ready for the big stage.”

Photo caption: Mattituck forward Berkan Ilgin (12 goals, six assists this season) races Pierson/Bridgehampton defender Kevin Guanga to the ball while goalkeeper Nick Collage hurries back toward his goal during a game earlier this season. (Credit: Bob Liepa, file)

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