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Center Moriches wins, 2-0; heads to state soccer title game

Center Moriches' Ben Hamilton and Curtis Copenhaver celebrate their

Center Moriches' Ben Hamilton and Curtis Copenhaver celebrate their win over Syracuse Westhill in a state Class B semifinal on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 in Middletown. Credit: Adrian Kraus

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. — Center Moriches’ Ben Hamilton has seen just about every kind of defense imaginable this season.

All year opponents have used double teams, even triple teams, to attempt to shut down Long Island’s leading scorer in boys soccer. Syracuse Westhill had one player in front of and one behind Hamilton in Saturday’s state Class B semifinal.

The defensive alignment seemed to open up the midfield for Center Moriches, and the Red Devils took advantage. Hamilton had goals in the 56th and 59th minute off assists from midfielders Thomas Luongo and Eric Amaya as Center Moriches defeated Syracuse Westhill, 2-0, at Twin Towers Field.

Center Moriches (20-0) faces Valatie Ichabod Crane at 10 a.m. Sunday at Middletown High School for the state Class B championship. It is the first time the Red Devils have ever won 20 games in a season, according to coach Chris O’Brien. Center Moriches the only undefeated, untied boys soccer team remaining on Long Island — last won a state crown in 2009.

“The midfield did a fantastic job today,” said Hamilton, who now has a Long Island-leading 38 goals and 58 points this season. “They won every ball, and put the ball right on my feet. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

After a scoreless first half, O’Brien asked his team to focus on the small details.

“We talk about the three Cs: composure, concentration and communication,” said the 21st-year coach. “We were a little lacking in our concentration; we didn’t do the little things right. But Ben and Eric picked that up in the second half.”

Luongo found Hamilton with a great cross that Hamilton headed in the net in the 56th minute. Amaya fed Hamilton three minutes later, who sent in a beautiful blast from 25 yards out.

Center Moriches goalkeeper Curtis Copenhaver made four saves, including a huge stop on a breakaway by Bo BenYehuda in the 47th minute to keep a clean sheet. Copenhaver was buoyed by senior defenders Donald Wood and David Franchi, O’Brien said. John Geer had nine saves for Syracuse Westhill (19-2).

“Most other teams press us in the middle,” junior midfielder Matt Alifano said. “But today there was a lot of open space to work with, and we were able to locate each other, work the wings and find Ben.”

Hamilton listened to the Red Devils coaching staff before the game.

“They told me, ‘This is your day. We need some big ones out there,’ ” Hamilton said. “I heard them and did my job.”

Center Moriches is now one game away from achieving a goal this program has been committed to since their players were youngsters.

“We just have to stay focused,” junior midfielder Jack Wicks said. “Our goal has always been a state championship and now we have an opportunity to reach up and grab it.”

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