The East Hampton High School boys soccer team clinched a county Class A playoff berth with Friday’s 5-1 win here over Mount Sinai, though while that game went smoothly, the team two days before spotted Bayport-Blue Point to a 2-0 lead before coming back to win in overtime.
Rich King, East Hampton’s coach, said that had his charges lost to Bayport-Blue Point, “it would have been uncharted territory. We were coming off a loss to Amityville, and a loss to Bayport would have made it two in a row. Frankly, I don’t remember the last time we’ve lost two in a row in the past three years.”
East Hampton is the defending county Class A champion, and while it lost a lot of firepower with the graduation of Mario Olaya and Milton Farez last June, their successors, among them Donte Donegal, Esteban Valverde, Nick West, and J.C. Barrientos, are very worthy.
In clinching a playoff berth “we accomplished our first goal,” said King. “Our next is to repeat as the league champion [East Hampton, with a 6-1 record, was in first place as of Monday] and to get the highest possible seed. The only other team to have qualified so far is Sayville [the team East Hampton defeated in last year’s final]. This week, two or three more will qualify, and by the end of next week we should know all the teams. There are usually eight or nine.”
King confessed that he was “pretty nervous” after the Bonackers had spotted Bayport-Blue Point to a 2-0 lead in the first half of the game played here on Oct. 3. A counter that caught the attacking Bonackers flat-footed led to the Phantoms’ first one, and the second, which came soon after, ascended into the upper right corner of the goal from the foot of a forward who’d beaten his defender to a teammate’s cross across the goal mouth.
Nick Quiroz got East Hampton on the board before the first half ended with a nifty ground-hugger that beat Bayport’s diving goalie at the near post.
“That goal was huge, perhaps our biggest of the season so far,” said King. “It was a momentum changer.”
It’s not that the Bonackers played poorly in the first half, “we played well, but we were unlucky,” said King. “Three of our shots went off the posts. With a little bit of luck, we could have been up 4 or 5-1 going into the break.”
East Hampton dominated play in the second half. Fourteen minutes into the 40-minute period, Denis Espana rocketed what King said might be the most beautiful goal he’s seen in high school soccer into the upper left corner of Bayport’s nets from about 25 yards out. Espana’s goal evened things at 2-2.
With seven minutes to play in regulation, West was tripped at the edge of the penalty area. His free kick, which went just wide of the left post, was kept in play by Alvaro Aguilar, but the Bonackers couldn’t cash in.
With five minutes to go, a header by Espana went just wide.
And so the game went into overtime as darkness was falling — two 10-minute periods. The first team to score would win.
That team, thanks to J.C. Barrientos’s full-sprint volley from the right side with about two and a half minutes gone, was East Hampton.
Later, Emma Barrientos, the mother of East Hampton’s senior center midfielder, said she came to realize it was her son who had made the goal “when I saw his [bright yellow] shoes.”
The Bonackers, who often have been late starters this fall, lost no time on Friday, scoring two goals within the first several minutes — the first by Valverde, assisted by Donegal, who had faked out defenders with some fancy footwork near the endline, and the second by Cristian Barrientos, who’d received a pass from West.
Mount Sinai got one back before the half. Closure was provided in the second half by Donegal (two goals) and West, on a free kick from 20 yards out.
The Bonackers are to play Miller Place, in second place as of Monday, tomorrow. “That will be a big one for us,” said King.