In his own words, Half Hollow Hills West’s Nicholas Duchatellier “wasn’t doing too much” up top as a Colts forward earlier this year.
So after teammate and defender Luke Bloom was injured, boys soccer coach Doug Gannon asked Duchatellier to move to center back five games into this season.
“I had never played defense before,” Duchatellier said. “I wasn’t too happy at first.”
But Duchatellier and No. 5 Half Hollow Hills West have been thrilled ever since. The Colts scored twice in the first 10 minutes, and Duchatellier helped anchor the back against a physical No. 7 Smithtown West en route to a 2-0 victory in the Suffolk AA boys soccer final at Islip High School on Thursday.
Hills West (16-3-1) faces Uniondale for the Long Island championship at Mitchel Athletic Complex, 6 p.m. Sunday. The Colts, who won their first Suffolk title since 2007, have not allowed a goal in their last three games, a span of 246 minutes and 38 seconds.
“The kids have worked so hard on the defensive end,” Gannon said. “Their effort in the playoffs, especially the last three games, has been tremendous.”
The Colts got out to an early lead when senior Ben Wichman scored his first goal of the season off a feed from Justin Kroin in the seventh minute. Speedy junior forward Marcus Fraser set up William Goldbaum, who made it 2-0 in the 10th minute.
Smithtown West (13-3-1) appeared to make it 2-1 with 13 minutes left in the first half, but a player was ruled to have made an illegal throw-in. Five minutes into the second half, the Bulls had a second goal disallowed in the 45th minute on an offside call.
The 6-2 Duchatellier helped settle the Colts’ defense, and when things occasionally broke down, goalkeeper Ben Nacht held strong. The junior recorded eight saves, including a point-blank stop with 4:22 remaining to keep a clean sheet.
“This feels great,” Nacht said. “All our hard work paid off, and now we are the team to bring a title back to Hills West.”
Anyone who is acquainted with Gannon knows he is a Colts soccer historian. So what was in his mind during the game? Gannon recalled a 3-2 loss in a 2015 AA quarterfinal against Smithtown West, as the Colts blew a 2-0 lead.
“All I was thinking about was when are we going to slip up,” said a smiling Gannon, who reflected on his decision to move Duchatellier to the back.
“He has been tremendous in the back for us,” Gannon said. “When you talk about a team player for Hills West, you’re talking about Nicholas Duchatellier.”
Duchatellier added: “I’m very happy I made the move now.”