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Nov 5, 2019 9:43 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Southampton Boys Soccer Falls To Center Moriches In Suffolk County Class B Championship

Southampton senior Parker West plays the ball with his chest. DREW BUDD
Nov 5, 2019 9:56 AM

It’s been said that experience can sometimes outweigh talent. That may have rung true in the Suffolk County Class B Boys Soccer Championship between Southampton and Center Moriches on Saturday afternoon, played at Diamond in the Pines in Coram.

The Mariners came into the county final as League VII Champions and had a sparkling 14-1-2 record after their 3-1 victory over Babylon in the county semifinal game on October 29. Center Moriches, meanwhile, finished second to Southampton in the league with a 12-2-2 record and needed penalty kicks just to get past Mattituck in their county semifinal game.

What the Red Devils possess in playoff experience, may have won out over what may have been a more talented Southampton roster. Having won the past three consecutive county titles, including being just two years removed from a state title 2017, Center Moriches showed its playoff pedigree in a 3-1 defeat over Southampton, which hadn’t been to the county finals since 2015, and hadn’t been to the playoffs altogether since 2016.

Southampton head coach Dave Riley didn’t necessarily agree that it was playoff experience that separated the two teams. Rather, the ball simply didn’t bounce his team’s way, he said, in the gut-wrenching loss.

“I don’t think it was an experience. I don’t want to take anything away from Center, they played well. But we had a couple of plays that just didn’t go our way,” he said. “It wasn’t like we were playing scared. We dominated possession in the second half to the point where it was like a 99-yard offense, we just couldn’t get that last yard.”

Center Moriches fired the opening salvo when junior captain Michael Luongo corralled the ball at midfield from 30 yards out, turned and fired an unsavable shot into the upper right portion of the goal to give the Red Devils an early 1-0 lead not even eight minutes into the game. Southampton fired right back when senior Logan Whitall sent a nice ball onsides to senior Parker West, who found himself one-on-one with Center Moriches junior goalie Colin Raupp, who made the initial save, but West followed up on the rebound and scored on the empty net to make it 1-1.

It remained that way for the game’s next 15 minutes or so until Center Moriches was awarded a corner kick with 10 minutes remaining in the half. Senior co-captain Liam O’Brien sent the corner into the box that a charging junior Ryan McDermott was just able to get a piece of it to find the back of the net to make it 2-1.

Riley admitted that goal may have taken the wind out of his team’s sails a bit, and led to the Red Devils next goal. A bad turnover by Southampton led to Luongo going on a breakway against Southampton junior goal keeper Ashton Triffitt. Luongo went lower left with a ground ball and Center Moriches took a commanding 3-1 lead into halftime.

“That one was a tough one,” Riley said. “It was a turnover, no question, but our guys recouped and went for the ball, and as I’ve said, the ball didn’t bounce our way. We had two guys covering it, and usually that will go to one of our guys. But it popped out right in front of Luongo, who was able to continue on with no pressure. Looking back at the tape, Luongo was even surprised it came to him like that. I think that’s an example how pretty unlucky we were there.”

Southampton held possession for over 60 percent of the second half, and had numerous prime opportunities to score. Senior Diego Trujillo hit the crossbar with 19 minutes remaining in the game, then senior Brian Solano sent a nice cross to Whitall, who hit the post with 13 minutes remaining.

It was a tough and frustrating loss for a team that had high hopes going into the season. But, instead, the 14 seniors on the team — many of whom had been playing together since they were at least 5 years old — played their final game, and their tears afterward bore that out.

“Just gotta know things happen,” Ben Luss said. “Got to be proud of what you did all season. You can’t take that away from anyone on the team. Just a good lesson learned, it’s a good thing to keep with you in your life.

“Regardless of what happened today, it was a good season,” West added.

After a couple of days to take in the loss and watch some film on the game, Riley was still astonished at how hard his team played, but still came away with the loss. All seven shots it took in the first half were on goal, and in the second half it took nine shots, and the majority of those were on goal as well.

“That goal by Luongo was world class. Nothing you can do on that one,” he said. “I thought the guys responded well and did everything that they should have. I think it’s fair to say [Anthony Sunderman], their center back, is a good back, and their keeper is really focused. They kept their edge.

“I’d like to think that we can beat them on another day. That’s the heartbreak of soccer, it can be so close,” Riley added.

Riley said it will be tough saying goodbye to the team’s 14 seniors. Many, if not all, left their mark on the program. They finished the season with the program’s best ever goal differential in team history at a plus-57, scoring 66 goals and only allowing nine goals all season.

“I saw a picture of them when they were kids, they’ve been playing together for a real long time, and it showed,” he said. “Even when the new guys came along the past couple of years, I felt like they fit right in nicely. They had a good amount of chemistry. I really enjoyed working with the whole team. I think they made an impact on Southampton soccer, for sure.”

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