It took just one goal and just one save to win one championship that was a long time coming.
“When the game ended, I actually started to cry, that I was able to bring a championship to this great city,” Glen Cove keeper Cris Hernandez said after his save protected a lead supplied by Luis Guillen’s first goal of the season as No. 1 Glen Cove held off No. 10 South Side, 1-0, in Wednesday night’s Nassau Class A final at Hofstra. It was the school’s first boys soccer county championship since 1967, according to coach Brian Smith.
The victory for the Big Red (19-0) not only lifted a weight off the shoulders of an entire community — many hundreds of whom filled Hofstra’s soccer stadium to beyond its 1,600 capacity, including fans standing in the evergreens behind one goal — but was also a testament to a huge weight loss by Hernandez.
“I lost 70 pounds since last summer,” Hernandez, a junior, said with a smile. He recalled surrendering the overtime goal that eliminated the Big Red in last year’s quarterfinals. That goal motivated him. You could say it weighed heavily on his mind.
“I weighed 250 pounds. I worked hard to be in this position,” Hernandez said. “I ran. I ate healthy. I went to the gym every day. I had no life.”
But he was a lifesaver with a little more than three minutes remaining when he made a spectacular save on South Side’s only shot on goal, by Ryan Prendergast, to preserve the lead.
“My teammates stopped their player from entering the box easier,” Hernandez said. “I would not have made that save if that did not happen.”
Glen Cove, which had eight shots on goal, scored in the 22nd minute when Guillen drilled a hard bouncer home on a free kick awarded after a handball call against the Cyclones (11-4-4) . Guillen’s goal actually deflected off the cleat of one of South Side’s players, who jumped up while aligned in the defensive wall.
“I aimed it. I shot it low because I knew the wall would jump, and I didn’t want to kick it high over the goal,” Guillen said through an interpreter. “I can’t describe the feeling. It’s like nothing else in the world.”
Guillen, a sophomore defenseman who moved up for the free kick, said, “I had a feeling that something great was going to happen today.”
He came to Glen Cove two years ago from Honduras and has fit right into the community’s soccer culture. “This is my new family,” he said.