Wheatley’s Nick Tagios heard the catcalls from the Carle Place boys soccer fans after he missed a close shot midway through the first half of the Nassau Class B final.
“They can keep talking,” said a smiling Tagios. “I’ll keep scoring.”
That’s exactly what the Wheatley junior forward did. Tagios turned the catcalls into silence with goals in the 49th and 84th minute — both assisted by Billy Richman — as Wheatley knocked off two-time defending champ Carle Place, 3-0, at Hofstra on Wednesday.
Wheatley (11-1-4) faces the Suffolk winner at Diamond in the Pines at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Wheatley and Carle Place have combined to win the last eight titles, with Wheatley capturing crowns in 2014 and 2011.
The Wildcats had beaten Carle Place, 1-0, on Oct. 2 in the two teams’ only regular season meeting, but Wednesday’s game had more meaning for both.
“This was a county championship (game) so we were a little nervous,” said Richman, a senior. “But as the game went on we had a confidence.”
As well as some great advice from the Wildcats coaching staff and head coach Steve Cadet after a scoreless first half when Wheatley tried to play the ball down the middle of the field too often.
“We were too direct, and we talked about in the second half to go wide a little bit,” Cadet said. “We definitely connected in the second half by going wider.”
The Wildcats were able to keep a loose ball in after an indirect kick to the right of the net. Richman threaded a through ball to Tagios, who lifted the ball from in close over diving Carle Place goalkeeper Kevin Fernandes with 31:09 left in regulation.
Wheatley’s Christian Cucinella put any hopes of a three-peat by Carle Place (6-8-1) to rest when he scored on a free kick with exactly 17 minutes remaining to give Wheatley a two-goal lead. Richman found Tagios again at the 6:11 mark to close the scoring. The win eases the pain of the last two Nassau B finals, both won by Carle Place over Wheatley.
“They were heart-breaking,” said Richman of the two title losses. “This year has been such a big year for us, and the seniors want to keep it going.”
The Wildcats get that chance on Tuesday, possibly against unbeaten Center Moriches.
“Right now the number one team in the state is from Suffolk County,” said Cadet, referring to Center Moriches. “So if they’re the ones that come through, we’ll be ready for them.”