As a goalkeeper, job one for Colin Raupp is keeping soccer balls out of the net. But Raupp is a lot more than a shot-stopper. He’s an offensive weapon for Center Moriches.
And that goes beyond being a reliable outlet for back passes from teammates. Raupp can do many things, including striking a booming 70-yard free kick for a goal!
Center Moriches coach Chris O’Brien said he texted his keeper before Wednesday’s Suffolk County Class B semifinal against visiting Mattituck. “I said to him: ‘It’s your last game on this field. You’re a senior playing your last game on this field, let’s make a memory.’ ”
Raupp sure did that.
He did so by executing a goalkeeping rarity (scoring a goal from a free kick) from a virtually unheard of distance (70 yards). That game-tying goal — and Michael Luongo’s go-ahead strike just 67 seconds later — paved the way for a 2-1 Center Moriches victory, its 10th in a row.
“It was a bomb,” Mattituck coach Dan O’Sullivan said of Raupp’s goal.
Mattituck’s defense, under siege by an aggressive Center Moriches attack throughout the match, and Erik McKenna’s goal took the Tuckers into halftime with a 1-0 lead. League V champion Center Moriches (10-1) needed a goal, and it arrived from the unlikeliest of sources.
Raupp, who took free kicks in his team’s half of the field, noticed the stress his long boots were causing the Tuckers. Following a Mattituck foul 10 yards from the midfield line, Raupp launched a booming ball that landed between the six-yard box and the penalty spot. The ball short-hopped goalkeeper Steve Moeck and bounced high into the net 3:49 into the second half. A stunner of a goal if ever there was one.
The George Washington University-bound Raupp said of his first career goal: “I didn’t see a flick, so I was like, ‘Oh, this is great! This is my goal.’ ”
“It’s like at midfield and he takes a shot and it goes in,” Mattituck center back Jude Couch said. “You don’t see that. That’s extremely impressive. Like, we didn’t expect that.”
O’Brien said: “It took a good bounce because I think Michael Luongo was kind of screening Steve, the goalkeeper, Moeck. He was in a good spot, you know, and I think he was afraid to run through Mike to cause a penalty and it short-hopped him and it took a wild bounce. I’ve been doing this for 37 years, and it’s one of the crazier goals I’ve ever seen.”
Raupp launched more shots on goal from long free kicks (three) than his number of saves (one).
O’Brien had high praise for Raupp, saying, “He’s as good as we’ve had, and we’ve had some very good ones here.”
Moments later, Luongo got the goal he was looking for, his 18th of the year. It came off a short corner. Jordan Titus dropped the ball off to Luongo and he struck a fierce left-footed drive.
Mattituck (4-5-2) was looking at the possibility of a stunning upset after McKenna’s second goal of the year. Couch deserves some credit for that one, laying the ball along the right sideline for Wesley Secaida. Secaida spotted McKenna cutting through the middle. McKenna then directed a left-footed shot between defender Anthony Sunderman’s legs and into the right corner at 13:03.
“I just felt really good that I was the first one to score on him,” said McKenna, referring to the first goal Raupp has allowed in nine straight games.
Center Moriches outshot Mattituck, 19-2. Raupp’s goal was a cruel irony for Moeck, the busy senior who must have felt as if he was going through 80 minutes of goalkeeping drills. Among Moeck’s nine saves (eight in the second half) were three quality stops on Luongo, from a close-range blast, a 26-yard free kick that Moeck knocked aside nicely and a dangerous attempt that he parried. “He bailed us out a few times,” said O’Sullivan.
Mattituck’s staunch defense included Liam Buckley, Chris Catalano, Alex Koch and Couch. Berkan Ilgin and Nikita Palianok were the defensive midfielders.
Mattituck will bid adieu to 10 seniors, including midfielder/defender Bryan Soto, who was out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“You know what I have to say about this group of guys?” O’Sullivan said. “There’s not as many year-round soccer guys, but they all work. They don’t give up.”
Top-seeded Center Moriches will face No. 3 Babylon in the county final Saturday at Diamond in the Pines in Coram.
Maybe Babylon should be forewarned: Raupp is a scoring threat — anywhere within 70 yards of goal.