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Rafael Celanti

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Rafael Celanti gets a shot on goal off a corner kick. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

Rafael Celanti started off this season as a center midfielder, and after the decision to move him to center forward, the sophomore’s coaches — and the rest of the Newfield boys’ soccer team — are reaping the benefits.

Nick Gomez heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Nick Gomez heads the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Celanti repeatedly came through for his team after the change, and helped the Wolverines make history. He scored early for his second game-winning goal of the postseason in a 2-0 victory over previously undefeated Hauppauge (15-1-3) Oct. 31, which sent his team to the Suffolk County finals for the first time in school history.

“He’s been a superstar,” Newfield’s 12-year head coach Jamie Santiago said of Celanti. “He’s doing everything a center forward does — he holds the plays up, he scores goals, he’s so elusive there. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for him.”

Celanti scored in the eighth minute of the contest when he blasted a shot into the bottom left corner.

“I saw the center back coming inside, and he backed away and thought the goalie was going to pick it up, so I ran and got to it first,” the sophomore said. “I’m speechless. Newfield never made it this far and I’m happy to be part of it.”

The Wolverines battled through its 16-1-1 season tallying nine shutouts with a handful of come-from-behind wins. Senior center back John Alves knew what it would take to get the Wolverines further than any Newfield team had been before.

“I told the boys it’s going to be a battle, but it’s just going to be another game of soccer,” he said. “I told them we need to settle down and play our game, and we scored early, which helped our emotions.”

Anthony Mauri screams in celebration following the semifinal win. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Anthony Mauri screams in celebration following the semifinal win. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After several pushes made by Hauppauge to even the score, sophomore center attack and midfielder Nick Gomez put the game out of reach when he headed in a free kick by senior Mike DiDominico.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” he said of the team making history, adding he was also thankful that his coach didn’t listen to him when he asked for a substitute to get him off the field right before the free kick. “It felt great to make it in and extend the lead for my team.”

Santiago said he was proud of his team’s achievements this season, which so far include nabbing the League III title and making it to the Class AA finals after not making the semis in 17 years.

“These guys have been through so much all season long,” he said. “There’s been peaks and valleys of emotions and to be the first team to make the finals is historic, and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone and their effort. It’s a joyous occasion for all of us.”

Santiago also credited Alves, the team’s leader on the back line. Sophomore goalkeeper Loui Chen made several diving, quick-reaction saves to maintain the clean sheet. He finished with eight saves.

No. 3 Newfield will face No. 4 Brentwood in the finals at Diamond in the Pines in Coram Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.

While Santiago said Brentwood is a program the Wolverines aspire to be like, Alves said his team has the right mindset to continue to make history.

“This season’s been a war, and we’ve battled the entire time to come out on top,” he said. “The emotions are crazy right now. I’m happy to finally do something for the school — put ourselves on the map. I tell my teammates to fight for the person next to you and play as hard as you can, and I’m confident we can continue to battle to reach new heights. We’re here to play.”

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Bryan Yanes grabs a pass downfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

With a 2-1 win over West Islip Oct. 7, the 8-1-1 Newfield boys’ soccer team is one step closer to being named League III champions.

Rafael Celanti moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Rafael Celanti moves the ball through midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The route to that ultimate goal will continue to challenge the Wolverines, with teams like West Islip fighting for postseason life, and others, like No.1 Smithtown West (10-1), challenging them for the top spot.

“We told them that against a lot of teams that are fighting for their playoff lives, it’s going to get chippy,” Newfield head coach Jamie Santiago said. “But they need to maintain composure, because a lot of teams are going to get them off their game and push them out of their element.”

West Islip did just that in the first half. After scoring the first goal of the game, tempers flared and pushing and shoving resulted in multiple yellow cards for both teams.

Heading into halftime still down a goal, the referees pulled aside captains from both teams to talk about the physicality.

“It happens — they talk — it’s a game, and I told the team to just relax,” senior center back John Alves said. “We’re trying to win the league here, so I told my guys to keep their hands down, get the ball, calm down and to just play our game.”

Mike DiDominico sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Mike DiDominico sends the ball into play. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Wolverines opened up the second half very differently. They finally broke through midfield and into West Islip’s zone.

Almost 10 minutes into the second half, senior midfielder Anthony Mauri grabbed a pass, raced around his opponents through midfield, and sent the ball up top to Rafael Celanti. One-on-one with a defender as he made his way to the box, the sophomore midfielder and center forward won the battle, and stuffed the ball into the left corner past a diving goalkeeper to even the score.

“I thought the defender was going to come in at me, so I took a touch forward and got past him,” Celanti said. “Then, it was just me and the goalie and I tapped it into the corner and felt a rush of excitement. This was an important win.”

Celanti had plenty of other opportunities in the game, which impressed his coach.

“Raphael Celanti had a great game,” Santiago said. “He scored, and he missed a couple of headers, but he was just all over the field creating a lot of opportunities. I thought our center midfielders also played a great second half.”

Winning the 50/50 balls was a key to the team’s second-half success.

“When you go down you think you’re going to keep getting scored on, but our team, we get back up — our hearts are always in the game,” Alves said. “So we kept possession — winning the first and second ball — we’re not scared of going into tackles, we’re not scared of shooting the ball. It’s all about going hard and having heart.”

Adrian Izzaguire battles for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Adrian Izzaguire battles for the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With 14 minutes left, senior forward Michael DiDominico headed in the game-winner.

“We gave up a bad goal early — we got punished for being slow out of the gate — but as the game went on we built momentum and finally started playing the way we’re capable of, and we turned the tide our way,” Santiago said. “That’s what good teams do. They find a way to win even when they’re not playing their best game.”

He’s hoping his team can do the same thing against Smithtown West Oct. 14. Newfield faced off against the Bulls Sept. 17 and came out on top 2-0, handing the team its only loss of the season.

“It’s a really, really big game,” Santiago said. “Hopefully they can pull out a big win. We have good senior leadership with a great core of young kids — we start five sophomores out of the 11 — and it’s just a good mix. This is one of the best teams I’ve had in my 12 years being a coach. They’re going to fight to the end.”