The South Side Cyclones boys soccer team’s season came to a heartbreaking end Monday evening, as the second-seeded and defending state champion Jericho Jayhawks were crowned Nassau County Class A champions after 1-0 overtime win at Adelphi University.
After going 12-4-2, the Cyclones were awarded the eighth-seed in the Nassau County Class A playoffs. South Side stormed its way through the playoffs with victories over West Hempstead, Roslyn and Hewlett, but the team finally met its match in the championship game.
“Seedings mean nothing -- we were the top two teams in the county all season long," South Side head coach Fred Paul said. "We didn’t come in here as an underdog. We came in here knowing that we could play with them and we saw two evenly matched teams playing for 95 minutes.”
“They were a deserving winner and unfortunately we had to take a loss,” he added.
South Side set the tone for a tightly contested match in the very first minute of the game, firing a shot from midfield on the opening kick off that was batted away by Jericho goalkeeper Ari Lewis, as they tried to take advantage of the wind blowing towards the Jericho goal.
The rest of the half was filled with tight defensive play and near misses from both teams, as the two squads headed into halftime scoreless.
The second half opened up the same way as the first half did, this time with Jericho launching a shot from midfield off of the opening kickoff to no avail.
The goalkeepers were put on full display in the second half, as both made crucial game-saving stops down the stretch to keep their teams' championship dreams alive.
At the 36:55 mark, Lewis made a sliding save on charging South Side senior Dane Flaherty to keep the game scoreless.
Later in the half, South Side goalkeeper Thomas Germano gobbled up a rocket off the foot of Jericho senior Zachary Cohen from outside of the box to deny the Jayhawks from taking the lead.
With 2:36 left in the game, Jericho senior Derek Medolla made a run on net trying to score the game-winning goal only to be stopped by Germano and senior defender Gerard Mahoney, who was there to save the rebound attempt.
The game would remain scoreless, however, and be decided in two 15-minute golden goal overtime periods.
Jericho freshman Barry Sharifi would play the role of hero for the Jayhawks, putting the ball in the back of the net after being fed a beautiful pass from Medolla with 1:33 left in the first overtime period for the win and the team's second consecutive county title.
"At the beginning of the year we set a lot of goals and winning the conference was one,” Jericho head coach Daniel Braga said. “Basically, ever since then we have been taking steps and this is just another step in what we are trying to do in repeating [as state champions].”
Dating back to last season, Jericho has only lost once in its last 30 games -- a 1-0 loss against South Side earlier this season.
“I got a great group of kids and unfortunately we can’t advance but I wouldn’t trade my group for anybody else’s group,” Paul said. “This is not only a good soccer team, but a great group of people and I’m proud as hell to be their coach.”