MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. — The hours Center Moriches practiced taking penalties beginning in the summer heat paid off in the biggest way imaginable in below-freezing temperatures Saturday evening.
Anthony Sunderman converted the clinching penalty kick to lead the Center Moriches boys soccer team to a 4-1 shootout win over Schuylerville after a 0-0 draw in a state Class B semifinal at Middletown High School. Colin Raupp stopped the first shot he faced in the shootout for the Red Devils, who will play Skaneateles for the championship on Sunday at 3 p.m.
“It’s a dream,” Sunderman said. “I’ve always wanted this feeling and we finally got it. All the work we put in paid off. Every day at practice we work on penalties and today we showed it.”
“We’ve been practicing penalties every day in practice since before I can remember,” Raupp said. “We all know what we’re doing and it feels great [that it paid off.]”
Prior to the shootout, Center Moriches (15-2-4) created the better chances but was unable to show it on the scoreboard.
“I thought we came out a little tentative, but we played very well in the second half,” coach Chris O’Brien said. “You have to be good but you also have to be a little lucky in this game.”
That may be true, but the Red Devils were a bit unlucky not to win the match in the dying moments of regulation, when a potential winning goal thudded off the far post and bounced back to the Schuylerville goalkeeper.
The two sides then played a close pair of overtime periods before the shootout, which began with the ball at the feet of Center Moriches' Liam O’Brien. Though the Schuylerville keeper managed to get a hand on the shot, the ball was struck too hard for him to keep it out.
Raupp responded with a diving save. After the Red Devils' Byron Miguel-Perez converted his kick, the ensuing Schuylerville shot sailed over the bar to keep Center Moriches' advantage at 2-0.
“Going first, you have to set the tone for the rest of the guys,” Liam O’Brien said. “Then Colin came up huge making his save, and then from there, we were confident.”
Jesus Rojas made it 3-0 for Center Moriches, and following the lone Schuylerville make of the shootout, Sunderman hit the clincher.
The Red Devils will play for the title at Middletown High School, the same site they won their 2017 state championship.
Said Raupp: “This feels great but we also know we have a job to do tomorrow.”