The Carey boys soccer team formed a huddle minutes before Monday night's game against Jericho, and roared with an intensity usually reserved for the playoffs.
Carey was eager to take on the two-time defending Class A state champion. Jericho, however, has come to expect these sorts of challenges from opponents, and this time the Jayhawks thrived on the opposition's intensity, especially in the second half.
When Robert Busam's shot from close range found the back of the net by bouncing seemingly in slow motion, barely sneaking past Carey goalkeeper Dom Brusca, he let out a roar of his own. Busam's yell could be heard over the Long Island Rail Road train chugging along adjacent to the field. That's because it gave Jericho a 2-1 win in the Conference A-1 game.
"It was ecstasy,'' Busam said. "It was such a relief because Carey made us feel like we had to win this one. Seeing the other teams come in here with a lot of intensity boosts us.
"We didn't expect [Carey] to be as good, but they are, and hats off to them.''
Carey (1-2) is led by the leading scorer in Nassau County, Gino Scardino, who has eight goals. The plan for Jericho (2-1) was to contain Scardino and make other players beat them, but that almost backfired because Carey midfielder Jeff Castaneda proved to be quite capable and had the only goal in the first half.
But Jericho turned it on after halftime, tying it 15 minutes into the second half on a goal by forward Andrew Greenblatt. Then Busam's header minutes later decided the game.
Throughout the contest, and especially late in the game, two of Jericho's premier defensive stalwarts, Alex Medolla and sweeper Jack Roberts, embraced the challenge of making sure Scardino was marked.
"If you put Alex Medolla on a player, he's stopping him,'' Roberts said. "As a defense, we love the challenges.''
Roberts, the leader of the unit, played in only his second game back from a leg injury. With him healthy, the Jayhawks' defense is that much more dynamic.
"We want this just as much if not more than any other team,'' Medolla said. "We want this three-peat.''
For Jericho, all challenges are welcome.