Wilber Blanco could not stomach the thought of watching Whitman celebrate at Brentwood’s expense for a third time.
In 2014 and 2015, the Wildcats eliminated the Indians from the Suffolk Class AA boys soccer playoffs. The one-goal loss in last year’s county final hurt the most because the Wildcats coasted to a state title, leaving the Indians thinking they could have done the same.
This year, the what-if game could be Whitman’s to play.
Blanco, who made seven saves in 110 minutes of scoreless soccer, stopped three shots in penalty kicks. Bryan Argueta converted the clinching penalty kick for a 3-2 advantage, and No. 4 Brentwood advanced to face No. 3 Newfield for the championship, which will be played at 7 p.m. Thursday at Diamond in the Pines.
“It feels pretty good to get revenge after two years of seeing them celebrate in front of you,” Blanco said. “It feels good to get a chance to celebrate in front of them.”
Whitman (13-5-1) nearly did anyway. In the 98th minute, Robert Cerrito sent a corner kick from the right side towards the near post. Kelvin Uceda Alfaro headed the ball towards the net, but Blanco dove and deflected it out of bounds.
“It was just a reaction,” Blanco said. “It was all instinct.”
Jorge Hernandez and Roberto Ventura combined to give Brentwood a 2-1 advantage in penalty kicks after Blanco batted away Whitman’s second shot. But Marc DePasquale (12 saves) converted to pull the Wildcats even and then kicked away Blanco’s shot. Blanco made two more saves, sandwiching DePasquale’s stop of Dennis Martinez.
That gave Argueta an opportunity to send Brentwood (15-2-2) into the championship. He danced right and left and then sent his shot to the center of the net as DePasquale dove towards the right post.
“I knew he was going to go to that side because he went to that side three times,” Argueta said.
Brentwood coach Ron Eden said his team last defeated Whitman in penalty kicks in a 1989 playoff match, back when Ray Perez was head coach. The Indians did not lose again that year.
If history repeats itself, the eighth-seeded Wildcats will not hang their heads.
“We lost a lot [of key players] and had a lot of injuries this year, but we battled through it,” Sean Zagorski said. “Win or lose or tie, I love this team forever and I love Whitman forever.”