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SportsHigh SchoolBoys Soccer

Witman Hernandez leads Whitman to Suffolk Class AA title

Walt Whitman players surround Witman Hernandez after he

Walt Whitman players surround Witman Hernandez after he scored a goal in the first half of the Suffolk Class AA boys soccer final at the Dowling Sports Complex on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

Witman Hernandez was full of motion and emotion.

The fleet forward used his left foot to place the ball into the right corner of the net 20 minutes into Thursday night's Suffolk Class AA boys soccer championship game. That gave No. 2 Whitman a 1-0 win over No. 1 Brentwood before a spirited, divided crowd of more than 1,100 fans at the Dowling Sports Complex in Shirley.

"This is just amazing," Hernandez said of winning the school's first county title since 1996. "We deserved this win because we worked so hard for it."

Whitman (17-1-1) will face Hicksville for the Long Island Class AA championship at 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Farmingdale State. Brentwood finished 18-2.

Hernandez shed joyful tears after the game, racing with his teammates across the field to the hundreds of Wildcats rooters and hugging teammates and coaches with abandon. "He worked hard to get that goal," Whitman coach John DiGiacomo said. "I'm so proud of him."

The pivotal play came when Fabrizio Chamorro delivered a pass to Hernandez, who beat his man off the dribble. "I knew I was faster than the defender and I just took the ball," he said.

After that, Whitman's defense took over. The Wildcats dropped nine men back, thwarting the quick and dexterous Brentwood offense. "That's not the way we usually play," DiGiacomo said, "but that's what we had to do. We couldn't let Brentwood spread us out. We had to keep it tight."

The Indians, led by slick midfielder Jefferson Portillo and forwards Roberto Ventura and Kevin Alvarenga, kept up the pressure, especially in a frantic second half. There were a couple of close calls.

Whitman goalkeeper Austin Salas (six saves) won a race with Ventura for a long pass into the box five minutes into the second half.

With 23 minutes left, Melvin Romero's blast on a feed from Portillo soared just over the crossbar. "Austin did a good job controlling the box," DiGiacomo said.

The rest of the Wildcats' defense, led by Blake Aronson and Sean Zagorski, did a terrific job of controlling the Indians' forwards. "Our defense was really solid," Hernandez said. "They all played amazing."

Fittingly, on a potentially dangerous free kick into the box with 28 seconds left, Zagorski leaped to head the ball out of danger and onto the hill behind the goal. "He did an unbelievable job tonight," DiGiacomo said. "He was a physical presence back there."

A parallel story angle to the Wildcats' championship run has been Hernandez's pursuit of the school's career goal-scoring record. He entered the game tied with assistant coach Brian Karcz at 44. No. 45 was a product of motion that produced emotion -- but not because it was a record-breaker. "That did not matter to me," he said. "As long as we win, it doesn't matter who scores."

That's probably the reason Karcz was beaming afterward, as if he had scored yet again. "I couldn't be happier for him," Karcz said before adding slyly, "How could the school record not go to a kid named Witman?"

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