Jason Cruz stared down at his feet as the ball bounced outside the 10-yard line five minutes into sudden-death overtime. He gave the ball a quick tap between his feet to settle it, took a deep breath, and sent his shot into the left corner past a diving Southold goalkeeper. The win helped the Porters’ boys soccer team (11-6) to its first county crown in 10 years.
“We had to hustle to the last minute, look for our opportunities — I saw mine, and I took it,” Cruz said. “I wanted to hit it with my left foot into the left corner, and when it went in I thought, ‘We did it. We’re county champs.’ We knew this could’ve been our last game, but we just thought about the chance to play one more game, practice together one more time.”
“When Jason scored I was still sitting on my knees,” he said. “My guys were running onto the field. I was still sitting there in shock. The reason I wanted this job was to see this success, the happiness on these guys’ faces. They have the trophy they deserve.”
Senior Miguel Torres was wearing his coach’s former jersey. He made six big saves to keep the teams scoreless heading into overtime.
“All we were thinking about was winning,” Torres said. “We knew we were a better team. We possessed the ball. We take more touches. Not to talk bad, but Southold looks for the kick-and-run and for the strikers in the middle. We were ready for it, and I was feeling pretty calm in goal. We’ve been playing together since junior high, and on travel, and we’ve been practicing every day for this moment.”
The group has also come a long way, improving on a 3-11-1 season just two years ago, and earned some redemption points with back-to-back wins over the Settlers, the last on October 16, after losing 3-1 to Southold in the semifinals last year. It was the first game Greenport played in overtime this season, but the Porters had endurance down.
“I emphasize running a lot with our guys — I’m surprised they hung around after all the running we do,” Charters said, laughing. “We normally run between four or five miles a practice at the beginning of the year, narrowing it down to one or two nowadays. It’s great that it paid off. Even last year we went into two overtimes, one double-overtime game. I asked my guys how they felt after the game and they were like, ‘Let’s play another one.’ So, I knew they had what it took to ride this one out.”
Goalkeeper Cole Brigham made 11 saves for Southold (8-8) during back-and-forth action across regulation, and each team took its fair share of shots, but the goalkeepers held strong on their line, coming out of the box when necessary to keep their teams in it.
“Miguel is a great goalkeeper,” Charters said. “Seeing him in my jersey brings back some memories; it’s cool. He kept us in the game, and . . . he saved the game, that’s the right way to put it.”
“He played amazing like always,” Cruz said of Torres. “He’s a big part of the team, like everybody is. This is just one team effort.”
Charters has felt close to his team, especially Cruz, who he’s likened as a younger brother. Although the last one to see his senior following the mad rush to celebrate, the pair ended it with a huge hug.
“It’s a lot of hours that he’s worked hard and it paid off,” Charters said. “It’s one of his biggest games he’s ever played in. They all worked hard, they earned this.”
The coach said he’s watched some film on Solomon Schechter, whom Greenport will face in the regional semifinal Tuesday, October 30, at Diamond in the Pines in Coram at 2 PM, and said he thinks his team has what it takes to “knock them off.”
If Greenport beats Schechter they play in the regionals, or Long Island championship game, November 2.
“I feel we have big expectations to live up to, ones we’ve set for ourselves,” Cruz said. “This win feels great, but we’re going to keep this mindset intact, and be ready for the next one.”