The rallying cry since the first practice in the August heat was to get back to the PSAL Class A final, which has been an annual rite of passage for Martin Luther King for 14 consecutive years until last year’s stunning semifinal loss to rival Beacon.
The Knights did just that Friday and they booked their ticket emphatically, thrashing Aviation, 8-0, at New Dorp Friday afternoon.
“What this is is our need to get back to the finals,” Martin Luther King coach Martin Jacobson said of the lopsided victory. “We needed this win desperately. That’s our goal. Now we’re in the championship and if we play like this, we’ll do pretty well.”
MLK, which is ranked No. 3 in the country by the NSCAA and has won 12 of the last 15 city titles, will take on Francis Lewis in the final Sunday at 3 p.m. at Randall’s Island.
“We really performed well today…I’m pleased with how the boys played,” Jacobson said. “Now I just have to get them pumped for Sunday.”
Martin Luther King (15-0-0), ranked No. 1 in New York City by MSG Varsity, led 2-0 before the game was 20 minutes old on goals by Tarek Beckles and Bradley Nestor. The first of Kerfalla Sylla’s four goals in the 38th minute gave the Knights a commanding 3-0 halftime lead.
It would have been much worse if not for the spectacular goalkeeping of Aviation senior Jonathan Rico, a rare bright spot for No. 7 Aviation (13-2-0), which made a surprising run to the semifinals.
MLK didn’t let up after halftime as Beckles netted his second after Ibrahim Diaby played him behind the defense in the 50th minute, two minutes after Steven Carvajal and Jethro Dede both hit the post.
Sylla capitalized on a defensive miscue to net his second in the 62nd minute to make it 5-0. He tapped in two more goals in a two-minute span and Mouhamod Keita finished the match with perhaps the best strike, ripping a blast just under the crossbar in the 70th minute.
“It was really important,” Sylla said of the win. “We have a strong team, good coaches and we played hard. The way we started is the way we ended.”
Sylla, a native of Guinea and transfer from Manhattan International, wasn’t on the team a year ago, but he still understands the importance of re-establishing MLK’s spot atop the city.
“I feel great about taking the [title] back,” Sylla said. “We really need it back home. We’re really ready for the final.”
Contact Dylan Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter: @Dylan_Butler