When Monday's county Class AA high school boys soccer semifinal was over, and when it had sunk in that Huntington, the tournament's third seed, had defeated second-seeded East Hampton 3-1 in a penalty kick shootout that followed almost two hours of riveting play, not only did Bonac's players tear up, but so did their coach, Don McGovern, who afterward, his voice shaking with emotion, praised his charges for the passion they'd displayed in overcoming a 2-0 deficit to force overtime. They had played great, he said, and they should hold their heads high.
It was a shame, McGovern said the next day, that playoff games had at times to be decided by penalty kicks, which, he said, were always "a crapshoot," but that was the way it was.
After Huntington's Carlo Guttierez, the first to go, had banged a hard, low shot off the left post, East Hampton's Gary Gutama beat Huntington's keeper, Dylan Hayden, to the left side of the nets. Then the tide turned: Jonathan Morales, Bryan Lizama, and Edwin Marroquin, who all aimed for the lower left post, successively made their tries for Huntington, while East Hampton's next three, Kevin Hilario, whose shot, which at first looked as if it were going in, skipped off the crossbar, and Jonathan Armijos Calle and Eduardo Calle, whose bids Hayden saved, came up empty.
Given their almost two hours of unrelenting play that afternoon and their dramatic second-half comeback -- the cheering and chanting urging the players on apparently could be heard far and wide -- it was a particularly agonizing way to lose.
East Hampton had the best chances in the first half as Chris Guallpa, Juan Salcedo, Armijos Calle, and John Bustamante, who just missed converting a Gutama cross at the right post in the 32nd minute, all came close, though it was a stunning corner-kick header by Jerson Contreras, Huntington's center back, with 10 seconds left until the break, that broke the ice.
"Pick your heads up," McGovern told his players during the break, "you're capable of coming back."
"They only had that one chance," Chris Merkert, McGovern's assistant, said. "You guys had the better chances."
His teammates could beat Huntington's defenders, Brian Tacuri, who took most of the free kicks, assured them, and when they did, they should "rip it," he said.
Huntington, though, applied more pressure than East Hampton when the second half began.
A free kick from 30 yards out led to the Blue Devils' second score, in the 55th minute, as the result of another header, this one by an unmarked forward, Alan Wilberger, that beat Bonac's onrushing goalie, Nicholas Guerrero, to his left. Given that 2-0 lead, it seemed improbable that the Bonackers could come back, but come back they did in the final 15 minutes, cheered on by a bleacherful of parents and students, who at times would cry out, "Let's go, Bonac, Let's go, Bonac," or "Vamos, vamos, East Hampton, esta noche tenemos que ganar!"
An East Hampton corner kick in the 72nd minute was punched out by Hayden, but in the scramble for the ball that ensued, Bustamante, who had received a pass from Armijos Calle, buried a shot into the left corner of Huntington's cage that prompted an explosive uproar on Bonac's side of the field. Thereafter, pandemonium reigned as the Bonackers continued to attack. With just a minute and a half to play in regulation, the crowd went wild again when, following a free kick taken by Kevin Hilario, Gary Gutama and Ariel Garcia teamed up for the goal that tied the game at 2-2 and forced overtime.
Each side had chances in the succeeding 15-minute sudden-death OTs. Six minutes into the second one, Filiph Garcia Ayala, after taking the ball all the way up the field, beating defender after defender, almost scored. A shot by Huntington's Colin Lennon hit off the field goal span above the crossbar with four and a half minutes remaining, and, with about two minutes left, Guerrero made a wonderful save on the header by Javier Mancia that bounced high up off the turf.
Guerrero "didn't have a chance" when it came to the penalty kicks Huntington made, McGovern said by phone afterward. As for his lineup, from which Tacuri, who had cramped up badly near the game's end, was missing, the coach said, "I asked every one of them if they were up for it, and they all said yes."
Twice in postgame huddles, McGovern told his players how proud he was of them.
"There was no quit in this team. It was so well balanced, and that includes the kids who came off the bench. There never was a falloff in our effectiveness. These are wonderful kids -- it was terrible that you have to go to penalty kicks sometimes to advance in the playoffs. In the regular season you don't have them -- a tie is a tie."
There were 15 seniors on this team -- Guerrero, Tacuri, Hilario, Kevin Lucero, Bustamante, Alex Farez, Gutama, Cassius Hokanson, Christopher Chimbo, Steven Ortiz, David Armijos, Mason Barris, Cory Mussenden, Guallpa, and Edgar Lucero -- but his 11 juniors were strong, McGovern said, as was this fall's junior varsity.
"We'll be back," he said in signing off.
Huntington is to play top-seeded Smithtown West in the county Class AA final at Patchogue-Medford High School on Thursday. The teams split wins in the regular season. East Hampton finished at 11-3-1.
This article has been altered and expanded since it was first published.