Goals by Nick West 6 minutes and 13 seconds into the game and with 10 minutes and 24 seconds left to play earned the East Hampton High School boys soccer team the county Class A championship at Dowling College’s Brookhaven campus Monday, by a 2-1 score over Elwood-John Glenn.
It was the second year in a row that the Bonackers have won the county title, and the third time in four years that they’ve contested it. The exciting win set up a rematch with Jericho for the Long Island championship yesterday, also at Dowling.
West was switched by Bonac’s coach, Rich King, from right wing to forward in the second half of Saturday’s semifinal here with Eastport-South Manor, a move that resulted in a game-winning goal by his sophomore phenom, and he continued to play forward Monday.
After his early goal, a well-placed ground-hugger from the top of the box that wound up in the left corner of Glenn’s net, it seemed East Hampton would continue on in the same fashion, but Glenn, which tied the Bonackers 1-1 and lost to them 2-0 during the regular season, proved to be tenacious, especially the senior forward, Adan Cruz-Velasquez, who was arguably the fastest player on the field.
The Knights tied it up on a goal by Christian Molina, a recent call-up from Glenn’s junior varsity, in the 24th minute. “It was a broken play,” Glenn’s coach, Lou Hanner, said later, “and the ball wound up on Christian’s foot. He shot it on the ground to the far post from about 10 yards out. It was his first varsity goal.”
With Molina’s score the battle was joined. In the minutes leading up to the half, the Knights put a lot of pressure on Bonac’s defenders, though they, and East Hampton’s fine sophomore goalie, Nick Tulp, were up to the task.
During the halftime break, King and his assistant, Don McGovern, urged their charges, who went against the wind in the second frame, to play their game, which features crisp passes on the turf and relentless attacks.
“We regained our focus in the second half and returned to our constantly attacking style, which paid off,” King was to tell sportswriters afterward.
Cruz-Velasquez pounded a shot just over the crossbar in the opening minutes of the second half, though the Bonackers were to have the best of it thereafter, frequently playing the ball either to Esteban Valverde, Donte Donegal, or J.C. Barrientos in the corners, hoping the skirmishes with Glenn defenders would result in a corner kick by West.
Meanwhile, Barrientos was everywhere, thwarting Glenn’s forward progress repeatedly and initiating East Hampton attacks. Later, King said his senior center midfielder, Bonac’s best all-around player, had been “on fire.”
And yet, in the 63rd minute, Cruz-Velasquez loomed large again, eluding his defender and breaking in on the goal one-on-one. Only a great sliding save by Tulp averted disaster.
Then, in the 70th minute, East Hampton did it. Valverde dashed with the ball down into the right corner. Marked closely, he tapped it to Barrientos, and Barrientos’s centering pass found West, who easily beat Glenn’s goalie, Max Karen, to the left corner as Bonac’s players and fans cheered.
At that point, King moved West, who has mainly played right wing this fall, into the back in order to bolster the defense. East Hampton hung tough for the remaining 10 minutes even with only two strikers.
King, when asked by Newsday’s reporter about West, said, “I couldn’t ask for more from this kid. He busts his butt in practices and in the games. I’ll hold off on the superlatives because he’s only a sophomore and I’m sure there are many more wonderful things to come. He plays much larger than his age.”
As for Barrientos, the coach said, “J.C. was on fire. He was all over the field, going up for airballs, distributing the ball . . . it’s the third time he’s played in a county final.”
“J.C.’s one of the best players in the county,” said West. “When he has the ball I’m more confident, and I try to move to where he can find me.”
“I love playing forward!” added West, whose older brother, Brandon, the goalie at top-ranked Messiah College and about to play in Division III’s Sweet 16, was in the crowd.