MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. — Center Moriches boys soccer came together to go from a team that finished second in its own league to a squad that finished second in the state.
The Red Devils came just short of winning the title after a 1-0 double-overtime loss to Skaneateles Sunday evening in the Class B state final at Middletown High School. Owen Cheney scored with 8:39 left in the match to win it for Skaneateles.
“We were so far under the radar even as the year moved on,” coach Chris O’Brien said. “We didn’t win our league, but we gutted it out in our playoff run. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce the way you want it to bounce and that’s the unfortunate thing about our game.
“The grit and determination that our kids showed, not only today but throughout the season is immeasurable in my 36-year coaching career. I could not be prouder to be associated with such a wonderful group of young men.”
Aside from the result, Sunday’s match had many of the hallmarks of the 2019 Center Moriches squad. In addition to the intangibles O’Brien spoke of, it featured outstanding goalkeeping from Colin Raupp, playmaking from talented players including Liam O’Brien and Mike Luongo, and stout defensive play.
Raupp made a number of key saves to keep the match scoreless, while also showing his signature style of “sweeper keeping,” as he routinely came yards off his line to win the ball and clear it to safety.
The Red Devils (17-3-2) came into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in Suffolk, where they defeated Mattituck in penalty kicks in the semifinals and locked down a dangerous Southampton team in the final.
After defeating Carle Place in the Long Island Championship, Center Moriches edged Burke Catholic in a regional final, before winning on penalties again against Schuylerville on Saturday.
“This group of young men I had a chance to be around made a 58-year-old man feel like a teenager for three or four hours a day every day,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien added that his senior class had a permanent impact on the program.
“It wasn’t only the leadership of [captains] Liam and Jesus Rojas as seniors, but the progression of players like Liam Murphy, Christian Wenzel, Ethan DeVelvis and Byron Miguel-Perez. What these guys and all the seniors, whether they played a little or played a lot, brought an unbelievable amount of ‘refuse to lose.’ And it showed in every single one of our matches.”