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Juan Ponce powers Amityville boys soccer to Class A state final

Amityville Memorial's Juan Ponce, left, hits a header

Amityville Memorial's Juan Ponce, left, hits a header as East Syracuse-Minoa's Even deBerjeois braces himself in the second half of semi-finals in Middletown NYSPHSAA during boys soccer championships, on Saturday. Credit: THOMAS LABARBERA

The Long Island Railroad runs through Amityville on the Babylon line along the South Shore. The Amityville boys soccer team has become the Amityville Express and there is little doubt who the conductor is.

Juan Ponce controlled the midfield and paced the offense throughout Saturday's state semifinal match.

The senior midfielder had two goals and senior forward Bryce Cherry also had two goals as Amityville rolled to a 4-2 victory against East Syracuse Minoa in the state Class A semifinal at Middletown’s Faller Field before a crowd of 500.

Amityville (18-1-1) meets Somers at 3:15 p.m in the final. It will be the third time the two programs meet in Middletown. (Somers won in overtime in the state semifinal in 2016. Amityville won the state championship against Somers in 2018.)

The dynamic duo of Cherry (23) and Ponce (17) have now combined for 40 goals this season.

"[Ponce] and I are usually destroying it at practice," said Cherry with a smile. "I’m so proud of our guys. This is my first state semifinal."

But not for Ponce, who started his varsity career as an eighth grader. There were times that Ponce looked as if he was a cat toying with a mouse on Saturday. The ball appeared to be on a string attached to his feet and the East Syracuse Minoa defense was the unwitting victim.

"I always like to shine in these bright moments," said Ponce, who also has 17 assists this season, "and give people hope that if they see me do it, then they can, too."

Honestly, Ponce does things on a soccer field that very few people can do. He scored in the 10th minute off a rebound to open the scoring.

Cherry added his first with 27:27 left in the first half as Amityville led 2-0. A mistake in the back led to a goal for East Syracuse Minoa (19-3) with 4:07 left in the first half.

Ponce scored on a free kick with 35:13 left in regulation to make it 3-1. Cherry scored his second goal with 17:46 left as the lead ballooned to 4-1. A penalty kick in the 80th minute ended the scoring. Manny Salazar had four saves in the win.

Now, Amitvyille could be 80 minutes away from its first state crown since 2018. (It also won in 2015.)

"One of our slogans is -- fuel the fire," Amityville coach Mike Abbondondolo said. "There’s nothing greater than playing on the last possible day in a final."

Just one last stop for the Amityville Express.

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