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On most teams, Port Chester’s Preston Higgins would be the star. The tall, athletic junior has the “look” of a forward and would probably be the target man for almost any other Section 1 team.
For the undefeated No. 1 Class A team in the state, however, Higgins has a much different job. While he's listed as a midfielder, he usually plays more of a defensive role, keeping opposing forwards off the ball and out of the net.
Against Sleepy Hollow in the Section 1 Class A quarterfinals, his role was reversed.
In a breakout offensive performance, Higgins bagged a hat-trick, carrying the top-seeded Rams to a 4-1 win over No. 9-seeded Sleepy Hollow Tuesday at SUNY Purchase. Port Chester will host the winner of No. 13-seeded Somers and No. 5-seeded Byram Hills in the semifinals on Thursday.
“(Higgins) is a midfielder who moves back to defense, and he’s stepped up this year,” Port Chester coach John Cafaldo said. “It just happened to be his day. He was the guy that stepped up. He had a great goal to finish it off, but it was just a great all-around effort on his part.”
Higgins scored his first goal off a corner kick from Kevin Riveros and tallied his second off a free kick from Andres Martinez. He capped it off in the second half, finishing a shot from just inside the box.
Fellow senior Felipe Campos notched Port Chester’s other goal on a free kick, striking a beautiful shot that gave the Rams a 2-0 first-half lead.
“One of my favorite players is Ronaldinho,” Campos said. “I tried to copy him on that kick and it just worked.”
But the Horsemen refused to fade away. Co-captain Matt Praino finished off his tremendous senior season with a nice goal to edge the deficit to 2-1. But Higgins responded seven minutes later, burying his second goal to put the game out of reach.
“I’ve been coaching here for three years, varsity soccer for two and I can say (Port Chester) is probably the best high school team I’ve seen,” Sleepy Hollow coach Brian Duschenchuk said. “They have it all and they play well together. There’s not much more that you can say. I’m proud of the effort we gave.”
Port Chester — which improved to 18-0 on the year — will look to stay perfect as it continues its quest for a sectional title.
“We still have to improve a lot,” Campos said. “But I think we can go very far. A championship season is very close for us, and if we continue to work hard, we can win it all.”
Still, Higgins hasn't bought into the hype.
“We’ve got people telling us all kind of things, every week,” Higgins said. “Best in the state, this and that, but we know we’ve just got to stay focused. We can’t let they hype catch up to us.”
Email Jordan Griffith at JGriffit@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_JGriffith