For three consecutive years, the four senior co-captains of the Southold boys soccer team walked off the field after the Suffolk County Class C final disappointed and dejected.
The First Settlers knew they had not only lost the championship game but a gateway to state tournament glory.
This time, however, they left no doubt, connecting four times in the opening half en route to an impressive 5-2 victory over Greenport at Diamond in the Pines on Saturday.
Last year Southold (8-8-1) suffered a crushing 1-0 overtime defeat to its North Fork neighbors and rivals.
“We all came out of here, some of us crying, so upset and this year coming out with smiles on our faces and almost tears of joy,” said midfielder Stephen Schill, a co-captain along with forward Joseph Silvestro, center back Tyler Woodhull and goalkeeper Cole Brigham. “Can’t believe it.”
When the final whistle sounded, players on the bench, mostly substituted starters, bolted onto the field racing to the west end of the stadium to celebrate Southold’s county championship with friends and family.
“Unexplainable,” Woodhull said. “It was amazing. Never felt anything like that before.”
Luke Grigonis, interim coach for most of the season while head coach Andrew Sadowski dealt with a neck injury, said: “Not overdue, but this team deserves it. It’s a testament to their attitude, their mentality and their work ethic.”
Because there are no Class C schools in Nassau County, the Settlers advanced to the Southeast Regional semifinals against Rhinebeck (Section IX) at Middletown High School on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
“We’re going to go into it pretty confident,” Woodhull said.
Due to Saturday’s result.
The halftime score was surprising because during the regular season, Southold won both encounters with the Porters (5-10-2), 3-2 and 3-1.
Prior to kickoff, Sadowski gave his team this message:
“Don’t hesitate, come out and play,” he said. “I just told them the first 15 minutes is going to dictate the entire game. It’s yours if you want it. They obviously wanted it.”
It took only 64 seconds for the Settlers to show how much they wanted it as Jaishaun McRae converted a scramble in the box off of Freddy Palencia’s corner kick for a 1-0 lead.
Southold did not let up. Silvestro’s right-wing feed set up an unmarked Elmer Deleon for an easy goal from point-blank range at 17:34. Silvestro slipped the ball into the lower right corner for a 3-0 margin at 20:43 before Daniel Palencia made it 4-0 with the first of two goals at 28:09. Palencia added at 60:11.
Silvestro said it “was super important” to come out strong.
“It came down to the wire every time,” he said of the last three finals. “Last year we had a heartbreaker. It was the last couple of seconds. We just didn’t want to take any chances and we just gave it all we got. … We just came out with a lot of fire.”
Brigham added: “This was our best game. We were clicking offensively and defensively.”
Sadowski was just happy to be on the sidelines for the first time this season. He had missed his duties as a social studies teacher and soccer coach since he was hit with a soccer ball on his neck during a freak preseason training accident. He returned to teaching on Wednesday.
“It’s a strange season when any of the coaches or players gets injured and can’t be a part of it, especially when it happens in training,” he said. “It was just a fluke accident. We joked about it. We dealt with it and its fine. They rose to the occasion and dealt with the adversity. Certainly helps that we’ve been together so long working together.”
Sadowski attended games but was forced to watch on the other side of the fence. “The energy and the excitement and the effort that the boys put in, that was the best welcome back this week,” he said.
The Settlers endured a tough final 2:23, when the Porters tallied their goals by Drew Wolf and Cesar Chapeton within 34-second span at 77:37 and 78:11, respectively. What really hurt Southold was losing defender Kenny Latham to a red card after he received his second yellow card with 71 seconds remaining. Latham will be suspended from Tuesday’s game.
“It’s going to change our back line,” Grigonis said. “Kenny will be missed.”
Top photo caption: The Class C champion Southold First Settlers. (Credit: George Faella)