By Desirée Keegan
We’ll be seeing the Huntington Blue Devils this postseason.
With a 4-1 win over Centereach Tuesday, the Huntington boys’ soccer team sealed its fate as the team moved to 7-1-1 in League II, guaranteeing them a spot in the playoffs.
“Clinching playoffs is nice,” Huntington head coach John Pagano said. “The score makes it look as if we won by a big margin, but I still don’t feel we played the way I think we could.”
Huntington senior forward and co-captain Carlos Rivera put the first point on the scoreboard after taking a short pass off a corner kick and up to goal and shooting the ball into the right corner of the net.
With 5:02 remaining in the first half, senior midfielder and co-captain Wilber Parada scored on the inside left corner off a serve into the box from the right side, for the 2-0 point advantage.
Centereach wouldn’t go down quietly though, and with 1:30 left in the half, junior forward Elmer Alfaro scored on a straight shot up the center, to cut Huntington’s lead, 2-1.
“They played hard,” Centereach head coach Jon Galfano said of his Cougars. “There were a couple of mistakes on the field, but you have to give Huntington credit, too. They set up some beautiful plays.”
Centereach opened the second half with several attempts, but it was Huntington’s Rivera who scored the next goal, off another short pass off the corner kick.
“I have to be proud of my guys, because they never give up, they never quit,” Galfano said. “As a coach, especially at the high school level, that’s all you can hope for, because the kids keep fighting.”
The game grew physical between the two teams, and Pagano said he was pleased with how his team handled the situation.
“The game got very physical and actually could have gotten out of hand, but my guys were able to keep their composure,” Pagano said. “They realized the importance of all of these games down the stretch and how we can’t afford to have a player thrown out because of a fit of anger, so I liked that, and our finishing was good. We scored four good goals.”
Centereach junior goalkeeper Jared Steiger made several diving saves to keep the score close, but with the net being pounded, seven saves were not enough.
“I felt good,” Steiger said of his work between the pipes. “There were a few I think I could’ve got, though. As a team, I think we played alright, but we could’ve played better. I think we need to control the middle of the field better.”
With 10:35 left to play, Huntington senior midfielder and co-captain Olvin Palma scored after rocketing a shot on net from nearly 30 yards out, which surprised Centereach’s defense, leaving it with little time to react.
On the opposite side of the field, sophomore goalkeeper Nat Amato, who is in his first year with the team, made some key saves. He made a total of five.
“I felt pretty confident,” he said of being in net, adding that the players have been warm and welcoming to the new addition. “This team has great chemistry, since they’ve all been playing together since they were young. It’s a great team.”
While the Blue Devils are excited for another postseason appearance, the team’s main goal is having a home playoff game.
“We haven’t had a home playoff game in a real long time,” Pagano said. “I think we’re on track to do it. This is a really, really good group of kids, and as you continue to win games, you start to think that maybe a county final run isn’t out of the question. So right now, the way we’re playing, I think we have as good a shot as anybody.”