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Salute to the champs: Long journey for state champion Center Moriches

Red Devils’ dream of state crown began way back in youth soccer.

Center Moriches H.S. played against Ichabod Crane for

Center Moriches H.S. played against Ichabod Crane for the  Class B State Championship on Nov. 12, 2017. Center Moriches player Eric Amaya, on left, celebrates with Ben Hamilton, no. 10, after he scores a goal in the second half against Ichabod Crane during today's Class B State Championships. Center Moriches ended up winning 4-0 and winning the Class B state title. Photo Credit: Freelance / by Jack McCoy

Center Moriches’ boys soccer team might hold some kind of unofficial record in a season of record-breaking performances.

The idea of a state crown goes back a dozen years for many of the 2017 Red Devils — the state Class B champions — who started together as members of the Center Moriches Strikers youth soccer team.

“It’s what we’ve been dreaming of since we played on the Strikers in first grade,” said senior defender Donald Wood. “Most of the starters played on that team, and we would have [associate head coach Eric] Bielski come down and train us. He gave us that mentality to see, and want, the big picture which was states.”

But it wasn’t always easy for Center Moriches (21-0). The Red Devils were the defending Suffolk B champion, but lost to Carle Place in the 2016 Long Island Class B title game in penalty kicks.

“We came into this season with a target on our backs,” said Center Moriches coach Chris O’Brien. “The loss to Carle Place gave us a little bit of the ignition for this season. We had unfinished business.”

The Red Devils played like a team possessed, or inspired, the entire season. Need proof? Center Moriches outscored its opponents 90-10.

Most of the attention goes to the offense and players such as Ben Hamilton (Long Island-best 40 goals and 61 points), Eric Amaya (16 goals, 10 assists) and Jack Wicks (4 goals, Long Island-high 22 assists).

But there was also midfielders Liam Pulsipher, Matt Alifano, and the Luongo brothers, Tom (a junior) and Mike (a freshman). Another key for the Red Devils was defenders Wood and David Franchi, and goalkeeper Curtis Copenhaver, who had 12 shutouts this season.

Some of the best action many of the Center Moriches players saw was at practice.

“It was really intense; we’d go all out the entire time,” Franchi said. “Ben and Eric are two of the best players in the state, and going against them day after day makes us so much better.”

Incredibly, Center Moriches trailed for only 48 minutes and 26 seconds out of 1,680 minutes it played this season.

“Being able to go off as a senior, have a perfect season, and win a state title was the icing on the cake,” Wood said. “There’s no better way of going out.”

RED DEVILS’

ROAD TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP

County final

Mattituck 6-0

Long Island championship

Wheatley 4-1

State tournament

Rye Neck 1-0

Syracuse Westhill 2-0

State championship

Valatie Ichabod Crane 4-0

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