It’s wait until next year for the East Hampton High School boys soccer team, which, while playing tenaciously, lost 2-0 to Jericho in the Long Island championship game at Dowling College on Nov. 14.
Jericho was the pretty much the same type of team as Eastport-South Manor, East Hampton’s semifinal opponent — tall, fast, and well-organized. And, it should be added, very strong in the defensive end.
“Every time we had the ball down there,” said Don McGovern, who assists Rich King in coaching the Bonackers, “they had six or seven guys in front of the ball.”
Two lightning strikes by the Jayhawks in the first half — the first, by Harrison Reiber, in the 13th minute, following an East Hampton corner kick, and the second in the 39th, by Zach Cohen, following a takeaway and a couple of long passes, the second of which prompted the goalie, Nick Tulp, to come out too far — served to do East Hampton in.
And yet the Bonackers, who have generally played stronger second halves this season, and who have frequently come from behind to win, did not give up.
“It would have been easy for them to cash it in,” King said afterward in talking with reporters, “but they played much better in the second half — they made a strong effort to get back in it. I’m proud of them.”
Nassau County coaches in the stands were reported to have said they hadn’t seen Jericho — which had 15 seniors on its roster — play a better game all season.
King, himself, said, “I don’t think there are many teams in the state capable of playing with them. With all their seniors, they were able to keep subbing in without any falloff in their play, and, of course, they were the defending state champs — they’d had a taste of it. . . . They’re a defensive-oriented team. I don’t think they’ve given up more than a handful of goals all year.”
Interestingly, King and Jericho’s coach, Dani Braga, had played on the same team in Nassau County in their mid-teens. “He’s a great guy,” King said. “When you lose a game to a quality guy like that you shake his hand. We played them in a nonleaguer this year, and we hope to continue that.”
That nonleaguer wound up in a 1-1 tie, though Jericho was demonstrably the better team on the 14th, keeping the ball away from the Bonackers as they moved in groups of three or four, often playing the ball back, as they moved methodically up the field before launching long passes onto the feet of their widely-spaced fleet forwards.
Defensively, they picked everything off before Bonac’s attackers could avail themselves of an unimpeded shot on goal. It didn’t hurt too that the Jayhawks’ goalie, Ari Lewis, was 6-2 or 6-3. He loomed large whenever East Hampton was presented with a corner kick. There were four such in the first half, all parried.
Esteban Valverde had several chances in that first frame, but the shots were taken from outside the goal area. With 10 minutes to go until the break, East Hampton was awarded a free kick from the 25. Nick West, who took it, and who faced a “wall” of defenders, dished off to Valverde, but his shot went wide left.
“Their counters are great,” East Hampton’s athletic director, Joe Vas, said during halftime. “They’re letting us come in and picking everything off.”
The Bonackers attacked relentlessly throughout the second half, but never were able to free themselves up enough to put a really serious foot on the ball. West, on two occasions, and J.C. Barrientos and Denis Espana all had shots deflected going down the stretch.
And so, East Hampton, which can take pride in the fact that it’s won two Suffolk County championships in a row, must wait a bit longer to win a Long Island championship. (Jericho beat the Bonackers in this same game last year.)
King said afterward that he had no doubt an Islandwide championship, as well as a state championship, would come.
“These are our goals — and they’re not coach-driven, they’re the kids’ goals,” he said.
“We only had four seniors on this team [Barrientos, Alex Serna, Bryan Ordonez, and Christian Calle]. We’ll be around for a while.”