Ward Melville senior forward Matt Gordon had his coaches and teammates yelling at him throughout most of yesterday's non-league game against Smithtown West. They were begging him to work harder and be more aggressive.
Once regulation ended at 0-0 and the game went into overtime, Gordon turned it up a notch, scoring a goal 3:07 into the extra period to give the Patriots (1-0) a tough win on the road.
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"I was having a rough game the entire day," Gordon said. "My teammates and coaches were telling me to work harder and push harder, and I knew once I got the opportunity I had to prove to them that I'm here to finish."
Defender A.J. Lapitino gained control of the ball and found Gordon on the far right of the field. Smithtown West goalie Brian Dugan came up to challenge the ball, but Gordon got past him and fired a shot into the back of the net.
"My mind wasn't in it from the start and my aggression level wasn't as high as it usually is," Gordon said. "I got my mind straight in the overtime. I felt like nothing could stop me at that point."
The game was very physical, featuring everything from clotheslines to body slams. The officiating was strict from the start with a number of fouls called against both teams. Four yellow cards were given during the game, with three of them going against the Patriots.
"It definitely had an effect on the flow of the game, but the calls went both ways," Ward Melville coach Jon Stecker said. "Thankfully it didn't end up determining the outcome."
After a couple of physical confrontations broke out within the first 40 minutes, the referees spoke to the team captains during halftime.
"Every time we play Smithtown West it's physical and it's a close game that always comes down to the end," Stecker said. "It's become a rivalry over the past couple years. We got the better end of it today."
Dugan finished with six saves and Ward Melville goalie Jack Bruckner finished with three saves for the shutout.