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LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY - Zap! Pow! Kaboom! Zoinks! Shazam!
On Wednesday, October 17, the home team Bulldogs of Sullivan West (3-9) took on their rivals the Eldred Yellowjackets (6-7) in a boy’s varsity soccer match that at times seemed to be right out of an action comic book.
Played on a soggy field under lowering skies, that as the final frame neared its merciful end, opened up with a wind-driven squall of stinging sleet, showcased a series of chills and spills as both teams made some spectacular shots on goal and played some really hard-driving heads-up soccer.
Although the number of fans in the stands was sparse, the booters thrilled the spectators with collisions, defensive sliding sweeps and aerial leaps of faith, all geared toward gaining or maintaining possession of the ball, with the ultimate aspiration of beating the opposing goalie.
Eldred drew first blood at the 23:19 mark as Chett Kelty scored off an assist by Christian Schadt.
With 5:21 left in the first frame, the Bulldogs rebounded as Sid South scored off an assist by Will Siegel.
At the end of the first half, the score was tied 1-1.
Early in the second half, the lead seesawed back-and-forth as the squads vied to see who would emerge victorious.
The Yellowjackets’ Kelty scored on an assist from Sawyer Halter at 37:50, and a few ticks of the scoreboard clock later, Dylan Jungblut-Mercado scored for Sullivan West at 32:17 to tie it up 2-2.
But for the home team, that was their final score of the game and the season, as Eldred went on a scoring rampage on the way to the Section IX Class D championship match against the Eagles of The Mt. Academy at Faller Field on Monday, October 20.
The Yellowjackets posted five unanswered goals in the last half to record a 7-2 win: CJ Sickmiller assisted by Eli McGrail (30:27), Kelty racked up a hat trick at 27:53, McGrail at 7:59 and 3:55, and to close out the attack, Sickmiller beat the home team keeper at about the 2-minute mark.
Sullivan West’s goalie was Efrain Martinez, while Brandan Kopf anchored the net for Eldred.
“It’s been a unique season,” said Eldred coach Joshua Santoro, referring to the rather unpredictable weather that has produced some truely dreadful playing conditions, a lament shared by his fellow helmsmen and helmswomen.
Reflecting on the regular season, Santoro added, ”We’ve done real well, challenged a lot of teams…some of the scores look a little lopsided, but we try to play everybody (on our team), give everybody ample playing time…everybody works hard in practice, so they deserve the right to get in there…it’s good game exposure for the following year to have that experience.”
“I believe we are better than our record shows”, he noted, and looking ahead to the upcoming sectional title match, Santoro said, “We’re very excited, it’s been a while since we’ve been in a championship game.”
After the match, Bulldogs coach Kai Murray took the time to jot down a few thoughts about the game and the season.
“Thoughts about the game…in adverse weather conditions our team held their own in the first half after going a goal down. I was pleased with the passing in the midfield, and at times we pressed offensively but just couldn’t score, Eldred took advantage of a few of our defensive errors and we paid the price. Overall, I’m proud of my team’s tenacity on a frigid night.”
“The season…this season has been a memorable one. The team went from strength to strength. The younger players grew more confident and our senior players also improved. Unfortunately we lost six of our experienced players due to an infraction, but I was very proud how the rest of the team worked cohesively and securedwins after this. One of the highlights was our thrilling win against Chester at our homecoming game….”
Continuing, Murrary wrote, “No matter the outcome, I feel the team played with intent and integrity in every game…I’m very excited to see what the future holds for a great group of boys who did a fine job of representing the Bulldogs this season….We’ll be losing quite a few seniors, but I see a lot of potential in our younger players….”