Nothing like putting your heads together to win a soccer game.
That’s exactly what the Jericho boys soccer team did in Sunday’s Long Island Class A championship game.
Senior halfback Jack Medolla headed a corner kick from senior midfielder Jordan Miller and directed the ball toward teammate Joe Kozohar, who headed the ball past the keeper with 11:46 left in the second half, to give Jericho a 1-0 win over Hauppauge and claim to the state’s Southeast Regional/Long Island Class A title Sunday at Farmingdale State College.
“That was our first goal off a header for us all season,” said Miller. “And it couldn’t have come at better time.”
“Jack headed it to the back post and I hit it pretty good,” said Kozohar of his second goal of the season. “We had good pressure and it was a great pass.”
Miller, who aggressively forced the midfield action throughout the game, said both of Kozohar’s were well timed. But it was his first goal of the season that set Jericho’s march to the crown in motion.
“I can’t forget his first goal because it came in the fourth game of our season,” Miller said. “We were 1-1-1 and losing, 1-0, at the half against Hewlett and he tied the score. We eventually won, 2-1, and haven’t lost since. It was the turning point in our season.”
Jericho (18-1-1) will meet Rye in the state semifinal at Middletown High School Saturday at 11:15 a.m.
“They scored just the way I drew it up,” laughed Jericho coach Dani Braga. “What a super goal. I thought the key to the win was our defensive effort in the first half where we weathered their attack. We had a north-south wind and it was a bigger factor than I anticipated."
Jericho played without senior forward Ari Kantorowitz, Long Island’s leading scorer with 36 goals and seven assists, who was forced to sit out the championship game after receiving two yellow cards in the Nassau Class A title win over Garden City. His second yellow card came with two seconds remaining when he left the playing field to celebrate with the Jericho fans. Kantorowitz was serving the red card suspension yesterday.
“We were disappointed that we lost our appeal, but it never should have gotten to that point,” said John Mankowich, Jericho’s director of athletics. “We have a 17-year-old player, who thought the game was over and went and celebrated with our fans. He’s a kid of character. He did nothing unsportsmanlike to disrespect the game or the opponent. It’s so unfortunate. But I’m proud of our effort and how we handled the adversity.”
The Jayhawks were resilient and determined to move forward without their top player and get to the state’s Final Four.
“We had his jersey with us the whole time,” Miller said. “He met us at school this morning and wished us luck.”
Kantorowitz’ Mom and Dad huddled in the bleachers during the game and cheered for the Jayhawks. They watched Jericho keeper Jake Levy (six saves) and his stout defense stone the Hauppauge offense.
“It’s been an unbelievable experience,” said Lori Kantorowitz. “My son wasn’t even allowed on site. He’s a kid who never had a yellow card at any level in his whole career. But our team has such heart and soul and pulled out the win and now he’ll play next week.”
Braga pulled his guys together after the game and focused on the challenges ahead of them.
“We’re not done,” Braga said. “Today was a real test. Let’s win the state title.”