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Boys Soccer: Crowley’s first goal saves Porters from defeat in season finale

Even in the early-evening darkness, Greg Dlhopolsky could see the light.

The sun set, literally and figuratively, on his Greenport boys soccer team’s season Monday night in a manner that was perhaps appropriate for the way the Porters played this season. They battled from start to finish, played hard, fought adversity and never wavered. That fortitude has been a bright spot in their losing season.

Despite twice falling a goal behind, Greenport clawed its way back, ultimately earning a 2-2 draw at Port Jefferson thanks to Declan Crowley’s only goal of the season with 7 minutes, 7 seconds left in regulation time. The teams played a goalless 10-minute overtime before officials stopped the Suffolk County League VII game because of darkness.

“Obviously, we would have liked to come out with a win today, but, um, you know, ran out of light,” Dlhopolsky said after the 90-minute match. “So what is it Michael Jordan says? He’s never lost the game, he’s only run out of time.”

“We always play hard every game and, you know, I respect that and I am proud of them for that because there have been some games where they could have just thrown in the towel,” the coach continued.

Greenport completed the season with a 3-12-1 record, overall and in league play.

“It was fun,” said Ricky Campos, the sophomore central midfielder who scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season for Greenport in the first half. “It was interesting because I feel like we could have executed a lot more, but it is what it is.”

The tie had to be a disappointment for Port Jefferson (0-13-2, 0-13-2), which has one last chance to pick up a win in its final game Wednesday at home to Smithtown Christian, which was 0-13-1, 0-13-1 entering its home game Tuesday against Mattituck.

Greenport’s Jose Merino gets his head to the ball before the arrival of Port Jefferson’s Ricky Melucci. (Credit: Bill Landon)

Crowley ultimately saved Greenport from defeat when he found himself in the right place at the right time. A Campos corner kick, Greenport’s first of the game, bounced off a defender and popped out toward the penalty spot where Crowley visualized doing what he did — tapping the ball into the bottom left corner.

“Declan has been good for us all season,” Dlhopolsky said. “I think that’s his first goal this season, but obviously it came in a big spot where we needed it.”

Greenport would have won the match in the semi-darkness of overtime if not for a spectacular save by Port Jefferson goalkeeper Jonathan Bosewell. Johan Esquivel uncorked a powerful shot that looked destined for the net, only for Bosewell to spring to his right and make a diving parry with his left hand. It was a first-class stop. Both Bosewell and Greenport’s Jonathan Morales made six saves each.

Port Jefferson took a 1-0 lead 16:34 into the game. A high cross was mishandled and Daniel Owens was in place to clean up.

But Campos, assisted by Esquivel, supplied Greenport’s reply just 3:46 later. “Basically just a loose ball in the middle,” Campos said. “I tried to get to it as fast as I could and let it rip.”

A defensive lapse led to Port Jefferson’s go-ahead goal by Jonah Pflaster 23:34 into the second half. Andrew Patterson played a ball down the left flank for Pflaster, who charged forward and deked defenders before firing to the low right.

“I don’t think it’s our best game, but it definitely wasn’t our worst,” Crowley said. “We should have beat Port Jeff, I’m not gonna lie.”

Greenport has endured travail this season, being outscored by opponents, 81-11.

“We had a lot of trouble scoring,” Dlhopolsky said. “We got a lot of opportunities and we’ve had trouble putting the ball in the back of the net. There were some games where we outplayed the other team, at least for a good portion of the game, and we had a lot of chances and just didn’t finish.”

Greenport will lose four seniors from this squad — defenders Elder Hernandez, Justin Lopez and Omar Mena and Esquivel, a midfielder. On the plus side, the Porters will return a good deal of experience next season.

“We’ve got some good young players coming up that want to play well and they want to win,” Dlhopolsky said. “I think the bright spot, too, is that these guys want to compete, they want to win games.”

Said Crowley, “I’m just excited for next year, to see what comes.”