Port Jefferson reaches goal: State title
For a team composed of mainly sophomores and juniors with no senior starters, the Port Jefferson boys soccer team had some lofty goals for the season. While the Royals won two consecutive Suffolk Class C championships, they had yet to win a Long Island championship or reach the state semifinals.
That didn't stop them from aiming for the top spot in the state. When asked to put their goals on paper before the season, just about everyone on the team wrote state championship. They turned out to be prophetic. Port Jefferson went 19-1-1 and won its first state championship.
"I was really confident in the team we had," said junior Blake Bohlen, who scored 26 goals. "We had come close every year in the Long Island championships. We were older and more mature. It was our third time in the LICs. As freshmen, our goal was to eventually win a state title."
When Port Jefferson returned to the high school the night after winning the state championship, a police escort was present, as well as about 100 fans to cheer them on.
"It was unbelievable," said junior goalkeeper Gabe Davis, who was the MVP of the state tournament with four shutouts in six games. "Soccer generally isn't the sport supported in the school. It was a perfect ending to a great streak we had."
The key game for Port Jefferson came in the Long Island championship against Friends Academy, which won the state championship the previous two years and ended the Royals' season both years. Vincent Antonelli scored off an assist from Bohlen with 4:53 left in overtime to give the Royals a 1-0 win.
"If we were going to be intimidated by a team, it would be Friends Academy," Davis said. "Once we beat them, we had a belief we could take it all the way."
Teams really keyed on Bohlen in the postseason. He had two goals and two assists in the postseason, but the Royals received big contributions from others.
Connor Crovello scored nine goals in the regular season and had four goals and three assists in the postseason, including a goal in a 2-1 win over Maple Hill in the state final. The other goal came from Antonelli, who had 22 goals, including four goals and one assist in the playoffs.
"They were aware of Bohlen and he was being marked all the time," Port Jefferson coach John Poulianos said. "It allowed other players to be freed up. With our team, the ball gets moved around enough. It's just happened that Bohlen and Antonelli often had the last touch."
What impressed Poulianos the most was the Royals' ability to play their best in the postseason and not experience a letdown after the win over Friends Academy.
"I thought we had the players to win a Long Island championship," Poulianos said. "I thought we could get by Friends Academy because they lost so much. The rest of the state is an unknown entity. It was a new experience for us. I was proud that we didn't deflate after the win over Friends."