After Jericho dominated its competition en route to a state title on a frigid November afternoon in Middletown, an early-season nailbiter in the September heat could not have seemed more distant.
In the middle of the title run though, the Jayhawks pointed to a Sept. 12 comeback victory as a catalyst for a 19-match winning streak that culminated in a 3-1 win over Greece Athena (Rochester) in the Class A state boys soccer championship on Nov. 17.
“From the beginning of the season, we knew we were good, but I don’t think we expected to be here at first,” forward Ari Kantorowitz said after Jericho’s victory in the state semifinals. “We actually started kind of rough and in our fourth game, we were down 1-0 with five minutes left. We came back and won that game and haven’t lost since.”
Jericho won its first match of the season, but fell to Garden City before playing to a scoreless draw against a Great Neck North team that finished near the bottom of the conference standings.
The prospects of a 1-2-1 start loomed large as Hewlett led, 1-0, late in Jericho’s fourth match. But after Joe Kozohar equalized, Kantorowitz scored the winner off an assist from Jordan Miller with less than three minutes remaining, and the Jayhawks didn't look back.
“That was the turning point,” Kantorowitz said.
It also was a sign of things to come, as the Miller-Kantorowitz duo terrorized backlines across Nassau and beyond from that point. Miller cemented himself as one of the state’s premier playmakers, leading Long Island with 23 assists and scoring 17 goals, including three in the state final. Kantorowitz's 35 goals led the Island.
“I’ve never been a part of something this great. It’s amazing,” Miller said after the state final.
Following the Hewlett game, only one other Long Island opponent even came within two goals of the Jayhawks for the rest of the regular season. Jericho entered the playoffs outscoring its previous 11 opponents by 46 goals.
Coach Dani Braga’s Jayhawks continued the run by winning their first three postseason games by three goals each before a county final rematch against Garden City.
Kian Ghazzini assisted Kantorowitz’s goal that opened the scoring, but the Trojans equalized before the break. A corner kick in the final moments of regulation set up Jack Medolla’s winner with three seconds left.
“I was walking back to the goal, getting ready to pick up my water bottle and get ready for overtime, and I turned around and the other net was shaking, and I just started running,” goalkeeper Jake Levy said.
Levy and the defense also were instrumental to the title run, as Jericho shut out Hauppauge in the Long Island championship and Rye in the state semifinal. The Jayhawks conceded just four goals in seven playoff matches.
"It’s a dream come true," Kantorowitz said. "I never thought I would be in this position and it’s a great feeling.”
Road to the Championship
Glen Cove, 3-0
Garden City, 2-1
Long Island Championship
Greece Athena, 3-1