Jason Cruz came into the 2018 season expecting to be Greenport’s right back. The reality was much different and much more dramatic.
Cruz instead spent the year at forward, where he scored a team-high 11 goals, including the Porters’ biggest in a decade.
His overtime goal on Sunday afternoon lifted Greenport to a 1-0 win over Southold in the Suffolk Class C boys soccer championship at Diamond in the Pines in Coram, and earned the Porters’ their first county title since 2008. Greenport (11-6) will return to Diamond in the Pines on Tuesday to face Westchester-Solomon Schechter in a state regional semifinal.
“I’m beyond happy with my team. This is all so crazy,” said Cruz, whose strike from about 10 yards out five minutes into the sudden-victory overtime period won the game. “Going into overtime, we had to give it our best because that could have been the last time we wore these jerseys. We didn’t want that so we had to keep working hard and score.”
“Jason is so automatic with his shots,” midfielder Jacob Kahn said. “He shoots it, it goes in and it’s awesome to watch.”
Not bad for a converted defender.
Cruz spent 2017 on the backline, but coach Sean Charters moved him to forward before the season and it stuck, as the senior spent the entire year either at striker or winger.
“Any position that coach wants me to play, I’ll be all-in,” Cruz said. “At the beginning of the season, we played a scrimmage against Riverhead. He told me to play up top, he liked the way I played and ever since, I’ve been up there.”
On Sunday, Cruz led an attack that applied pressure throughout the match, but was held off the board in regulation thanks to a strong effort from Southold keeper Cole Bridgham (11 saves). Southold (8-8) created some chances of its own on the counterattack in the second half, but Brigham’s opposite number, Miguel Torres (six saves), made some fine stops of his own.
As the game wore on, Southold dropped deeper but the Porters still could not break through until Cruz’s strike.
“It was a little frustrating, but we knew we were controlling the game,” Kahn said. “We just had to keep on working, keep on running and keep on playing hard. We knew it would happen.”
“We’ve accomplished a big goal, but our year isn’t over,” Cruz said. “We still want to make it upstate and that’s our goal right now.”