A Greenport head coach Sean Charters sent out a group text to his boys soccer team the morning of the regional semifinal October 30 to pump up the Porters, asking if they were ready to play. Senior co-captain William Chapeton responded with, “I’m hangry.” Charters replied with a Free Willy emoji, which proved fitting.
That’s because with eight minutes remaining in the first half of what was at the time a 0-0 matchup at Diamond in the Pines, the midfielder leapt up to catch a through-ball from Jason Cruz, and grazed it with the top of his head, knocking it above the Solomon Schechter goalkeeper and into the net. He scored again to open the second half in what ended up a 5-1 win.
“We joke around telling him he has a vertical jump of 2 inches,” Charters said, laughing. “We freed Willy today.”
Things didn’t stay funny for long though. Cruz collided with the goalkeeper midway through the final 40 minutes, and the Porters’ leading goal scorer ended up breaking his leg.
Cruz handed his captain’s armband to classmate Mateo Arias, who led the Porters in shouting “for Jason, for Jason,” before finally getting back on the field after 20 minutes.
“I was a little worried at first, hoping we didn’t lose momentum because the score was only 2-0 at the time — that’s two through-balls over the top, tie game,” Charters said. “For these guys to stick together, and be fit enough to take this to the end was great.”
It took some time to shake off the feelings, but sophomore striker Kevin Azama scored twice, sandwiching a David Pineda goal for a 5-0 advantage.
“When I scored the first one I was so happy, because it got the team moving again,” Azama said, as his team dominated the time of possession from start to finish. “We wanted to possess the ball, pass, and get into the right position to create chances — just shoot whenever we were open — and I think we were successful in that.”
Greenport held its opponent shotless in the first half, and senior goalkeeper Miguel Torres had to make just one save in the second. Ethan Sidelsky got Solomon Schechter (6-9) on the board with 1:37 left.
Greenport hasn’t reached the regional final since 2005. Azama said it feels great to keep the ball rolling.
“We’ve all strived for this,” he said. “We’ve been working hard and are planning to take this further. We’re one of the best teams in Greenport history. If we put our minds to it, keep working hard, we can make it to states.”
Chapeton took it a step further, as the team prepares for the regional final against SS Seward at Middleton High School November 1 at 4 PM.
“We’re going to be ready,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade this team for any other, it’s my second family, and I’m confident we will take the next step forward for this program.”