Despite being on the right side of more than its fair share of routs, one of the most iconic moments of Brentwood’s perfect season came in one of its narrowest victories.
On the final shot of a hard-fought Suffolk Class AA final, Alex Garcia drilled the winning penalty kick in the midst of a freezing downpour and rushed to celebrate with the Indians’ sizeable contingent of fans. The strike completed a comeback victory and came in the middle of a series of one-goal wins where the Indians proved their championship mettle.
“This showed what Brentwood is about,” Garcia said of the county title victory over Commack, part of Brentwood’s 22-0 season in which they won the Class AA state championship. “It’s in our heart. We’re made to win. We’re a championship team.”
The game was the third in a string of five consecutive one-goal playoff games leading into the state final, after the Indians had only played in five such contests in their previous 16 matches.
In the state championship match, Brentwood put up one more lopsided margin, defeating Fairport 4-0 in a match where all 40 players on its roster appeared in the game.
The Indians finished the season ranked third in the nation overall and first among public schools in the USA Today Super 25 rankings.
“They put so much effort in all year round and really showed their class,” coach Ron Eden said. “I’m really proud of them.”
Once the playoffs began, Brentwood also showed it knew how to win close games.
After knocking out West Islip with a second-half goal in its playoff opener, Brentwood was 18 seconds away from elimination in its county semifinal against Smithtown West when Nathaniel Austin scored to tie the match. Austin found the back of the net again in overtime to send the Indians to the county championship, where they again needed to stage a dramatic comeback.
“This team has so much character and grit and I’m so proud of them,” Eden said after the match, when his team scored twice to erase a 2-0 halftime deficit and send the game to overtime and penalties.
The Long Island final against Massapequa was not as dramatic. The Indians led 3-1 before conceding a second goal in the 78th minute.
Brentwood found itself right back in overtime in the state semifinals. The Indians dominated play but were held off the scoreboard heading into the second overtime by a combination of the crossbar, the Ossining goalie and a questionable offside call that disallowed the would-be winning goal.
Perhaps a lesser team would have been deterred by the series of bad breaks, but Brentwood found its winner when Brandon Yanez scored off a deflection.
“Ninety percent of the time, a team loses that type of game, when you create chance after chance [and don’t score],” Eden said. “But these guys just refuse to lose. That’s the biggest thing about this team this year. They refuse to get beat."
Indians’ Road to the Championship
Suffolk Class AA playoffs
West Islip, 1-0
Smithtown West, 3-2 (OT)
Commack, 3-2 (5-4 in penalty kicks)
Long Island Championship
Ossining, 1-0 (OT)