On a corner kick early in the second overtime, Commack coach Dave Viegas called "Panda." His players called something else. Clearly this wasn't a black-and-white situation.
"I was supposed to go back post," senior midfielder Justin Cebollero said. "But I was there for the cross instead and I headed the pass to Peter. I got a little selfish there. I wanted to put it in the box."
Peter Lopes took the header from Cebollero and quick-footed it past the diving keeper 1:05 into the second overtime period to give the host Cougars a thrilling 1-0 victory over Brentwood Tuesday in a duel of League I and state soccer titans. "It's always huge to beat Brentwood," Cebollero said. "We beat them twice in the regular season last year but they beat us in the playoffs. We were thinking about that. We beat one of the best teams in the state."
Entering the game, Brentwood (5-1-1, 3-1-1 in league) was No. 3 in the latest state rankings. Commack (7-0-0, 5-0-0) was No. 5 and should move up, thanks to Lopes' first varsity goal.
"I went to bed dreaming about scoring an overtime goal against Brentwood, but I never imagined this," said Lopes, a junior defensive midfielder.
The winning play began with Connor Gill setting up for a corner kick. That's when Viegas yelled "Panda," but a couple of players "shooed me off. They overruled me," Viegas said with a laugh. "I trust these guys. They just went 'stack' instead and their judgment was right. It worked."
That was because Cebollero's header in traffic was perfectly placed. "The defense crashed but Justin's ball was too perfect," Lopes said. "I couldn't miss."
For most of the game, Brentwood held the advantage in both time and territory, thanks to the fancy footwork of stellar junior midfielder Jefferson Portillo, who was all over the field creating opportunities and controlling the ball, especially in the first half. But Cougars keeper Ryan Sinnott, who made 10 saves, was equal to the challenge, making stops on Portillo and Roberto Ventura.
"There will be stretches like that during every game," Sinnott said. "But you have to stay strong. When there are a lot of shots, sometimes it can help you focus and get in a rhythm."
Sinnott and his teammates have had perfect rhythm and harmony all season, as well as some impeccable timing. Lopes' goal was an encore of Cebollero's sudden-death tally last week against Sachem North. "I thought I'd never have that feeling again," Sinnott said.