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Hamilton showcased its beautiful style of soccer to the masses on Saturday at SUNY Purchase, dazzling the crowd with fancy footwork, seamless passing and an uncanny awareness on the pitch.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, beauty didn't result in victory.
Instead, it was a blue-collar Port Jefferson (Section 11) squad that came out on top, scoring a thrilling 2-1 double-overtime victory in the NYS Class C regional finals. The Royals (17-1-1) will face the winner of Tully (Section 3) and Lansing (Section 4) in the state semis on Saturday, November 19 at Middletown High School.
Like in Port Jefferson's narrow 1-0 overtime win over two-time defending NYS champ Friends Academy in the Long Island championship, strikers Blake Bohlen and Vincent Antonelli combined for the game-winning goal.
This time around, however, it was Antonelli setting up Bohlen, who buried the golden goal four minutes and 59 seconds into the second overtime, blasting a sidewinding left-footed shot that swerved past Hamilton goalie Mark Larios (eight saves).
“It's the best feeling in the world,” Bohlen said. “I can't even describe it. The rush I felt when I scored that goal was unbelievable.”
For the Raiders (13-6-1), who dominated much of the game and created the lion's share of the scoring chances, it was the exact opposite — deflating and surreal.
"Hats off to Port Jefferson," Hamilton coach Robert Segaloff said. "They put their work in. They were cramping and their legs were dying and they had no energy, but they kept fighting."
Playing without captain Sam Klasek due to a yellow cards suspension, the Royals knew they were in for an uphill battle. But their concerns were eased when Cihad Akkaya scored the game's first goal off a precise square ball from Connor Crovello in the 8th minute.
“(Port Jefferson) came out harder than us and got a goal," Segaloff said. "That was pretty much the difference in the game. Even though we possessed the ball, we still have to put the ball in the net. We had some opportunities at the end and hit the post.”
Still, the early goal seemed to awaken Hamilton, which started to attack Port Jefferson with ferocity. At times, the Raiders danced circles around the Royals, stringing together eight and nine passes in a row to create prime scoring opportunities.
Edisson Moscoso finally converted one of them with 17 minutes left in the second half, ripping a highlight-worthy goal from 25 yards out that dipped just below the bar. Nixon Vacacela was credited with the assist.
After getting the better of play throughout much of the match, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Raiders produced the game-winning goal. But Port Jefferson — aided by the stellar play of keeper Gabe Davis (12 saves) — hung around long enough to pull it off.
“We came out hard and put in an early goal, but we got too confident and let down our guard and they eventually put one in,” Bohlen said, detailing the ebb and flow of the match. “But we kept fighting and we eventually won the game. We played hard.”
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass