It has been a long wait for Austin Scoggin. Through much of his soccer career, he waited in the wings behind Cody Huntley, who is one year older.
Then, this past December, Scoggin suffered a major setback. He took a hit while playing indoor soccer, leaving the goalkeeper with two bulging discs.
That meant more waiting.
No surgery was required, but Scoggin was sidelined until June, when he was able to resume training.
“It was bad,” he said. “I was in a brace for three months, couldn’t do anything for six months.”
With Huntley having moved on to play for the University of Cincinnati, Scoggin, his backup for the past two years, was the heir apparent as the Mattituck Tuckers’ starting goalkeeper. Perhaps no one was more eager than him to kick off preseason practice.
The first day of practice was scheduled for Monday, which happened to be Scoggin’s 17th birthday. Because of damage caused by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, though, the Tuckers had to wait until Tuesday to begin their two-a-day practice sessions.
One more day of waiting.
But Scoggin’s day finally arrived on Tuesday when he joined 55 other players in workouts. Call it a belated birthday gift, not that he didn’t earn it. He had put in his time as Huntley’s backup the past two years.
“I was always waiting, waiting, and now it’s finally my time to show everybody what I can do,” said Scoggin.
The irony is that even with the loss of Huntley, goalkeeper is the only one of the 11 positions on the field that Coach Mat Litchhult said is settled for the defending Long Island Class B champions.
“Right now Austin’s obviously the clear-cut starter,” Litchhult said. “Losing Cody, you can’t understate that, it’s definitely big. But even last year I knew that Austin was a capable backup, probably more capable than a lot of other schools in the county had. He probably could have started for a lot of those schools, but he played behind [Huntley], and he waited for his time, and his time is now.”
Connor Egan, a senior, and Stephen Ostrowski, a sophomore who played for the junior varsity team last year, are the other goalkeepers in contention for places on the team. Litchhult said he would probably keep two goalkeepers on the varsity squad.
Egan is relatively new to soccer, but he played goal for the Mattituck Bears under-17 team while Scoggin was out with the back injury.
If there was any concern about how the Tuckers would handle Huntley’s departure, it doesn’t seem as if it would have come from the Tuckers themselves. Both Egan and Ostrowski spoke highly of Scoggin’s abilities. Scoggin may have big shoes to fill, but they indicated that the team is in good hands.
“Austin’s a really good goalkeeper. He can take us far,” Ostrowski said. “Overall, he does everything to a T.”
Egan said, “We’re just learning from him right now.”
The 6-foot-1 Scoggin played in several games for the Tuckers last season, but he has experience at the position.
“I like to come out and get the ball,” he said. “I like to dive. I like to do everything. I like to just have fun when I play. I’ll throw my body in front of the ball if I need to. I’m not afraid to get hurt.”
Asked if Huntley helped him during their time together, Scoggin replied: “We kind of had our differences. We butted heads a lot, but I mean, all in all, we worked everything out and we worked together hard.”
Litchhult said Scoggin is aggressive and vocal. “I think he gets down to block a shot very well,” the coach said. “I just want him to stay within himself. I don’t want him to think he’s super human out there. Just do the simple stuff.”
Scoggin said he still feels “little pains” in his back every now and then, but said it’s manageable. “I’m still able to jump, run, do everything the best I can,” he said.
Two things can be said for sure: Scoggin looks fit and motivated. He said he enjoys the thrill of making a big save or winning by a shutout. “I kind of like that the spotlight is on you when it’s necessary,” he said.
Scoggin said the back injury made him realize how much he loves soccer and how much he missed playing. Now he’s trying to make up for lost time. When Mattituck’s assistant coach, Pete Hansen, called him off the field during a scrimmage on Tuesday evening, Scoggin tried to talk him into letting him keep playing.
Scoggin expects he will have some butterflies, especially for the team’s first game on Sept. 10 at home against the East Hampton Bonackers.
“I’ll be a little bit nervous, but once I get focused, it will go away and I’ll be ready to play,” he said. “I know I’m going to give it my all every game, and hopefully it’s enough to bring us upstate.”
Finally, Scoggin’s time has come.