So much for West Islip being just a football-lacrosse town. Make room for the boys soccer team, Lions fans.
Senior midfielder Joe Blackton picked up a loose ball in the box and misstruck his first attempt, but settled and deposited the winner in the 58th minute for No. 2 West Islip.
The Lions won their first Suffolk title since 1973 after a 1-0 victory against No. 5 Huntington Friday night in the Class AA boys soccer final before a crowd of 1,000 at Longwood.
West Islip (17-2-1) meets Nassau champ Westbury (11-4-1) for the Long Island Class AA championship at 3 p.m. Sunday at Longwood.
"It’s been 18 years," Lions coach Eddie Pieron said. "We’ve been to this game four times — in 2005, 2007, 2011, (2021) — and we finally did it."
The first half was a defensive showcase by both teams with West Islip having the best chance with less than two minutes remaining but could not score.
However, the Lions were more aggressive in the second half and peppered Blue Devils’ goalkeeper, Daniel Alzate Rodrigo, with seven shots.
But the senior captain, who entered the final with nine shutouts this season, made seven saves and held firm for Huntington (15-4-1), which was in search of its first title since 1964.
(Huntington was co-champs with Center Moriches in back-to-back seasons in 1963 and 1964, according to Newsday records.)
Finally, West Islip broke through with under 23 minutes remaining when Aidan Lodie took a shot that was stopped, but not controlled by Rodrigo. The ball bounced around and reached Blackton.
"It was a scramble in the box and you got to do whatever it takes to get it done," said Blackton, who leads West Islip with 18 goals. "I miss-hit my initial shot, but I followed it up."
Lodie, who is second on the team with 17 goals, added: "Of course he did. He’s always there."
But it’s more than Blackton’s talent and work ethic, according to his coach.
"Joe has grown every single year for us, and he’s the smartest soccer player I’ve ever coached," Pieron said. "I can put him at any position on the field and he’ll play better than anybody else. The ball just happened to find him tonight as it usually tends to do."
Huntington had three shots for the game and just one in the final 40 minutes.
Pieron cited the play of defenders Jack Dellipizzi, Brendan McMahon, Vincent Puglisi and Derek Gildard, as well as goalkeeper Lucas Iacono, who had two saves for West Islip’s third postseason shutout. The Lions have allowed one goal (against Floyd) in four playoff wins.
"We struggled to defend at times this season," Pieron said, "but we’ve been rock solid in the playoffs."
The long-time Lions coach teared up looking at his players celebrating on the field a few minutes after the final.
"It’s all them," said Pieron, carefully controlling his emotions. "Those players did all the work and deserve all the credit."