It’s been awhile since the Highland boys’ soccer team was playing .500 ball. Half-a-decade at least. But that’s where they are midway through September and after five games played — the Huskies, with their 3-0 shutout of Port Jervis on Saturday, are 2-2-1.
With “new” old-school head coach Frank Alfonso toughening their “tudes,” the boys, starting the season with a 2-0 shutout at the hands of Onteora, controlled the action against a tough Saugerties team last Tuesday, peppered Sawyers’ goalkeeper Artie Cherwin with a dozen shots (to but three for Saugerties) and nearly pulled it out in overtime. The final was 1-1, but it was a portent of play to come.
After Saugerties had a breakaway in the opening minute, with Highland’s Zak Wern coming from behind to kick the ball away inside the 18-yard mark, it wasn’t until the game’s 50th minute that the Sawyers had another. Unfortunately for the Huskies, that shot — banged in from 10 yards out by Giovanni Barese (off a blooper pass inside from midfielder Sean Maloney) — tied the game. Highland had scored at the 14-minute mark as Tyler Vona’s through pass from the 40-yard line was converted from just inside the 18 by a hard-charging Chris Spaulding, the ball hitting off Cherwin’s hands and rolling just over the goal-line.
Before and after Spaulding’s goal, it was all Highland. It was Spaulding to Ramesh Donaldson five yards in front, but was saved by Cherwin. Then it was Spaulding with a scissor-kick from 10 yards out that sailed just over the crossbar. Jared Babineau high and wide with a direct kick from 25 yards out. Conner Noone from Donaldson, high and wide left from the 18. That was all before Spaulding’s goal. After the sophomore striker scored it was Donaldson to Vona, but wide left; Babineau to Tristan Reynolds and over the crossbar from the 18; Vona on goal from 10 yards out off a nice pass inside from Travis Distasi; Babineau with a great pass across the goal-mouth to Spaulding, who just couldn’t control the ball and was picked yup by Cherwin – who, I’m sure, was feeling a little shell-shocked by now; then Babineau to Donaldson, off the crossbar; and finally ending with a breakaway by freshman Edward Otieno, the ball sailing over the crossbar from the 18 as the first-half expired.
After Barese scored for Saugerties, Highland came right back, pressuring the Saugerties defense, with Greg Kolber, Vona, Spaulding, Jimmy Flores, Babineau, Donaldson and Noone getting opportunities. The overtime was more of the same, as the Huskies kept play in front of Cherwin and in the Sawyers’ end. Anthony Cina had two saves for Highland.
Against highly-regarded Red Hook on Thursday, the shoe was on the other foot, as the Raiders controlled play, got scoring goals from Mike Whitman (penalty kick) at 5:50 and Guy Timperio at 22:00 to lead 2-0 at the half. Whitman assisted on Maclyn Willigan’s goal at 48:14, before Highland broke into the scoring column with a Spaulding goal (off an assist by Donaldson) at 55:00. The final was 3-1 Red Hook, with Cina and Joe Lopez sharing eight saves in goal.
Winless after their first three games, the Huskies could have looked at this season as a repeat of the past few (when victories were few and far between), but instead may have turned around the season with two straight home wins. Facing Ellenville on Friday, the Huskies got a goal by Spaulding (assist Vona) at 5:00 to lead 1-0 at the half, and then got goals by Otieno (assist Flores) at 53:00 and just two minutes later a goal by Babineau (assist Vona) to pick up their first win of the season 3-1 (a late Ellenville goal by Harold Nunovero). Lopez had six saves in goal.
On Saturday, Highland evened their record, shutting out Port Jervis 3-0 on a tri-fecta by Donaldson. Assists went to Flores, Ray Souleotis and Otieno. Cina and Lopez split five saves in goal.
Highland boys soccer visits Wallkill this Thursday, Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. ++