After a sensational start, the Huntington High School varsity boys’ soccer team struggled through four straight losses. The Blue Devils ended that skid with a thrilling 5-2 victory over visiting Smithtown East on Tuesday afternoon.
Huntington toppled Smithtown West (2-1) and Northport (6-0) to open the season. The Blue Devils then fell to North Babylon (2-1), Newfield (1-0), Smithtown West (2-1) and Centereach (1-0).
The losses while unwelcome were not entirely surprising considering the Blue Devils graduated 21 seniors off last fall’s 26 player roster. Head coach John Pagano knew a rebuilding process was inevitable and his 2016 team would need time to mature.
Huntington has enjoyed much success in recent years, winning a share of the league title for the first time in a quarter-century and reaching the Suffolk Final Four twice.
Huntington senior Matt Gelb
with the throw-in. (Mike Connell photo.)
The Blue Devils trailed Smithtown East at halftime, 1-0. What followed was nothing short of remarkable. Huntington scored five second half goals to claim its third victory of the season and give the team a much needed jolt of confidence.
Sophomore Luis Ortiz scored three goals for Huntington and senior Kevin Gulizio added a goal and an assist. Junior Eren Aydin also found the back of the net. Senior Matt Gelb picked up three assists. Sophomore Alex Rivera also assisted on a goal.
Blue Devil goalie Nat Amato recorded four saves before the junior yielded to backup Kolby Rappel, who stopped one shot. Huntington’s defense turned in a fine performance to keep Smithtown East’s scorers in check.
“We started off bad, but then we came out strong in the second half and we started to play the ball more to the side and then cross it back to the middle, which was how we scored most of the goals,” Amato said.
Pagano every motivational ounce in his to inspire the Blue Devils during a halftime speech while fans waited in the bleachers for the action to resume.
“I think the keys to the game were playing hard and focusing on passing the ball instead of just kick and run,” Gulizio said. “At halftime, Coach Pagano spoke a lot about playing hard as a team instead of just a few people. We scored five goals by just playing to our strengths and keeping possession.”
Huntington’s offense hummed. Smithtown East goalies Nick Dabrowski and Michael Gasparino combined to stop seven Blue Devil shots.
With nine games remaining, including contests at home today against Copiague and Friday against West Islip, there’s still plenty of time for Huntington to make a run at post-season play. The gritty Blue Devils can’t be overlooked by any remaining foe, that’s for sure.