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Half Hollow Hills West comes on late for soccer victory over Hauppauge

Jonathan Bragoli #12 of Half Hollow Hills West,

Jonathan Bragoli #12 of Half Hollow Hills West, right, gets congratulated by Luigi Posillico #7 after scoring a goal to break a 1-1 tie with Hauppauge in the second half of a Suffolk County League V boys soccer game at Half Hollow Hills West High School in Dix Hills on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. Credit: James Escher

The Half Hollow Hills West boys soccer team starts like a 1957 Chevy on a cold winter’s morning. It finishes like a Ferrari just out of the showroom.

The Colts were goalless the first 65 minutes of their Suffolk League V contest and the last 20 minutes of that they were looking at a one-goal deficit against perennial league power Hauppauge.

Then in the final 15:45, they came alive and scored three unanswered goals — by Matt Mandel, Jonathan Bragoli and Frankie Posillico — to come away with an impressive 3-1 victory on Tuesday afternoon at Hills West.

The Colts (7-0-1) reach the halfway point in league play atop a division won the past five seasons by the (Eagles (4-2-1). And they have done it in a most unorthodox way: All 20 goals that Hills West have scored this season have come in the second half of games.

“It’s probably not the best way to do things, coming on late, but we don’t feel intimidated when we’re down 1-0,” Mandel said. “In some way it’s like we need to see the other team can challenge us before we come alive. Over time we will overcome that.”

The Eagles broke through in the game’s 46th minute. Ryan Rush’s kick ended up a high bouncer across the goal and Brett Kelly headed it in for the score.

“It takes a little while for our guys to get in the flow,” Colts coach Doug Gannon said. “But playing on this field — and it’s the biggest field in Suffolk County — our kids are used to it and we’re in shape. Our kids are extremely fit right now and it shows in the second half when we start to run down teams.”

Bragoli, as usual, was the central figure in the comeback. The play that shook the Colts awake is called “Shen” and Bragoli executed the corner kick that starts it perfectly. His teammates lined the goalmouth and his kick for the back post was accurate. Hauppauge goalkeeper Ryan Levenberg deflected it from going into the goal, but it landed right in front of Mandel, who tapped it in to tie the score 1-1.

For his sixth goal of the season, Bragoli took a ball off Issah Khanat’s chest and rifled it toward the goal. Levenberg got his hands on it but it ricocheted into the top of the net with 4:00 left to play. Posillico scored again 26 second later from 22 yards out.

“The conditions were perfect for the kick and I hit it right and [Matt] was there on top of the deflection,” Bragoli said of executing “Shen.”

“Bragoli is special because when he has it on his foot, you can’t get it away from him and he also has the vision to find teammates,” Posillico said. “He’s the guy we want with the ball.”

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