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Sep 27, 2019 2:14 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Hampton Bays Boys Soccer Avenges Last Year's County Final Loss To Center Moriches

Hampton Bays senior captain Steve Bonilla keeps an eye on a Center Moriches player in his defensive end. DREW BUDD
Oct 1, 2019 1:53 PM

Some teams try to completely forget about big losses they have suffered — what happened in the past is done and over with. Then there are teams that use those losses as fuel for future games. The Hampton Bays boys soccer team is the latter.

With last year’s 1-0 loss in the Suffolk County Class B Championship to Center Moriches fresh on their minds coming into last week’s home tilt with the Red Devils on September 25, the Baymen used that loss to fuel them. And it worked, turning around that county final score in their favor, avenging that loss and making the alumni in attendance proud.

The victory improved Hampton Bays to 5-3 in League VII on the season, and made its road to clinching a postseason berth that much easier. The Baymen only need to win three of their final eight games now, and with a win already over the always-talented Red Devils, that appears to be obtainable. The victory also shot the Baymen up in the New York State Sportswriters Association rankings to 11th, four spots ahead of Center Moriches, which, with the loss, fell to 5-2-1 and severely dampened its chances of vying for the league title with undefeated Southampton.

“Honestly, it was just a payback game for the past three years of them dominating the league,” Hampton Bays senior Cris Vasquez said after the game. “They beat us in the county finals last year. That was a tough loss.”

“Playing Center is always a tough game,” Hampton Bays senior captain Steve Bonilla added. “It’s good competition. We always have to play at a high level and make sure we get goals to try and win the game.”

The key was going to be finding the back of the net, something that had been an issue for the Baymen in their three consecutive losses earlier this season, but had been remedied the past two games in which they had scored a combined seven goals in wins over Pierson and Port Jefferson. The fact that both junior Darwin Fernandez and senior captain Milan Moraga — arguably the Baymen’s best forwards — were missing the Center Moriches game due to injuries wasn’t exactly going to help matters, but Hampton Bays persevered.

With about six minutes remaining in the first half, senior Francisco Funez, who head coach Scott Garofola moved up from his defensive central position to forward the past two games to help jump-start the offense, was able to get behind the Center Moriches defense thanks to a pass from senior Fernando Lopez. He buried a shot through the Center Moriches goalie’s legs to make it a 1-0 game.

Not long into the second half, torrential rain began to fall as Center Moriches pushed up and laid a heavy attack onto the Hampton Bays defense. The Red Devils certainly had their chances to score, but weren’t able to capitalize, and the Baymen enjoyed the 1-0 shutout victory.

Sophomore Juan Cardona hasn’t allowed a goal in the last three games, since filling in for regular starting goalie and junior Matt Arroyo, who has been out due to school-related issues. Cardona was one of many Baymen who have stepped up their game. Moraga gave Vasquez his captain’s band for the Center Moriches game, and it was the first time the senior played as captain.

“When he passed me the band, it was weird, because I’m usually following his orders,” Vasquez joked. “But I had to take command of the back. It was tough at first, but we got through it.”

Despite missing key players in Fernandez, Moraga and Arroyo, Garofola liked his game plan going into the game, and was confident his team could pull off what some would call an upset.

“We really were strategic in how we were going to approach the game, but also, we were not going to stray too far from what we do because we felt like what we do is good enough to take home a win if we do it right,” he explained. “So it was kind of being aware of what they do, and also executing on our side.

“Over time, you learn the different styles of different teams. [Center Moriches] plays a well-coached, high-level style. We’re aware of that. At the same time, we’ve known that for years and it’s never been easy.”

After falling to 2-3 on the season after a rough 3-1 loss at Greenport on September 18, Garofola has appreciated the way his players have bounced back, winning three straight to get back on track.

“We talk about perseverance, we talk about pushing through; it’s a long season,” he said. “It’s a bit of a roller coaster at times, and you can’t let a small hiccup of two or three games mentally mess with you and shut it down for the rest of the season, because it’s a long way to go.”

Hampton Bays had almost a week off before its next game, which was against Southold this past Tuesday, giving some of its injured players good time to heal. Feeling good after the win, Hampton Bays players had their sights set on their next target — Southampton — which defeated the Baymen, 5-0, on their home turf on September 16. The two rivals meet in Southampton on October 12.

“We’re looking for payback against Southampton. We’re coming for them,” Vasquez said. “We lost total control of that game the last time we played. But next game, when we go to them, it’ll be something different.”

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