When Tyler Grippo lined up for a free kick from just inside the midfield line, the Hauppauge midfielder stepped right into the glare of the playoff spotlight. He blasted the ball high and right on goal, where Amityville keeper Jorge Hernandez looked right into the glare of a bright, setting sun.
“Sometimes you play the conditions,” Hauppauge coach Jamie Edson said. “We noticed the sun was right in the goalie’s eyes on a couple of plays. We decided to give it a shot.”
Sure enough, Hernandez, fighting the glare, saw Grippo’s ball late and could only swat it away rather than catch it. The carom was collected by Nick Pozo, who scored the first goal.
“Coach told me to play it to the goalie because of the sun,” Grippo said. “He had trouble with it and he slapped it right to our guy.”
Said Pozo, “It got us going.”
No. 1 Hauppauge took control from that point on and held off stubborn, speedy No. 2 Amityville, 2-1, Thursday in the Suffolk Class A boys soccer championship game at Islip High School. The Eagles (17-1) will face Nassau champ Garden City for the Long Island Class A title on Sunday at Mitchel Athletic Complex.
Pozo’s goal, with 11:03 left in the first half, marked a turning point for Hauppauge. For much of the early action, Amityville was the aggressor and had two good scoring chances. One shot was headed over the crossbar and another was saved by Ryan Levenberg (eight saves).
Grippo earned an assist on Hauppauge’s second goal, off another re-start. His ball was headed into the right corner by Timmy Grosso in the ninth minute of the second half. “I try to put it on net and hope my teammates can get something on it,” Grippo said. “Once we get a lead, I have a lot of trust in my defense.”
Levenberg and the defense, anchored by Jeremy Contreras, were severely tested. Amityville’s Oscar Hernandez made things tense when he right-footed a low shot into the left corner for his 26th goal with 11:11 left. Kymani Hines had two close-in headers that nearly clicked as the Warriors tried desperately to tie it.
Edson said playing with a lead creates a delicate balancing act. “You want to play defense but not be too defensive,” he said. “We didn’t do it perfectly, but it turned out well.”
The outcome provided a nice birthday gift for Edson, which came with an ice-water dousing from his players that left him shivering. By then, the sun had set.