Kenny Steer scored twice to lead East Hampton to a 3-1 victory over Portland in a boys' soccer game Friday night, the Bellringers’ 10th consecutive victory.
With the season winding down, there was much riding on the outcome of the game in Portland.
East Hampton (12-1) was sitting atop the Shoreline standings and the Class S rankings in a tie for both with Valley Regional. Portland (8-5), winners of five straight, is in a battle for fourth place in the Shoreline with a conference tournament berth at stake.
The importance of the game was not lost on either side.
“We want the one seed,” East Hampton coach Bob Boscarino said. “It’s in our own hands. Our kids know it. We run this out, we’re the one seed."
Said Portland coach Jim Stotler: “Coming into tonight we controlled our own destiny. I have to go back and look at it, we’re fighting with a couple of teams. I’m not sure where this leaves us. We’re going to go out and look to win the next three games. All we can do is go out and try to win those games.”
Steer nearly had all three goals, having credit for the third taken away because it was directed in by a Portland player and charged as an own goal.
A hat trick would not have been anything new for Steer, who had one last Saturday against Old Saybrook.
“It’s really exciting,” Steer said of his goal scoring. “It gets me going. I feel that it gets my team going. It gets everyone motivated because we’re scoring goals.”
Goals were hard to come by in the first half as the teams played to a 1-1 draw. Steer scored first and Andrew Geres tied it for the Highlanders not long after.
The second half, however, belonged to East Hampton.
“In the second half we just finished,” Boscarino said. “We executed. That second goal was a good goal. Kenny hit a good ball, great strike. That was all individual effort by him.”
The third goal came on a corner kick by Steer, which appeared to be headed in by a Portland player. Steer had another good opportunity with 3:51 left but was denied by goalkeeper Bryany Tobler.
Boscarino said it wasn’t anything special he said at the half that got the Bellringers rolling, he just told his team to play the game the way they are capable.
“We have a very good team, we move the ball well,” he said. “As long as we stay composed and we play our game, we’re very good and we’re going to do very well. That was all I said to them. I said ‘Don’t get caught up in the game, and play soccer’ and I think that’s what they did.”
For the Bellringers, who own the tiebreaker over Valley by virtue of their 2-1 victory in Deep River earlier this season, this was the first of three games in four days. They play Haddam-Killingworth (8-4-1) on Saturday and Old Lyme (12-2), which handed them their only loss of the season, on Monday.
Can fatigue be a factor during this stretch?
“It definitely can be,” Boscarino said. “The fortunate thing, the way it played out, H-K is also in the same boat. They’re playing [Friday]. How it plays out Monday, honestly, we’re going to be so pumped to play Old Lyme.”
Haddam-Killingworth defeated North Branford 3-0 Friday night.
East Hampton can give Portland a huge assist in the standings with a victory over H-K at home. Game time is 2 p.m.
“We can’t take H-K lightly,” Boscarino said. “They’re playing very well. They’re trying to get the four seed, just like Portland.”
A loss to H-K and the likelihood is that East Hampton will have to settle for the second or third seed in the Shoreline tournament and Portland will miss out on the fourth seed. Old Saybrook (7-6) has an outside shot at fourth.
“It’s really important for us,” Steer said. “If we’re number one in the Shorelines, we play number four. It gives us a good advantage. In states we get a bye, I’m pretty sure. It’s just good to be in the front because you get a lot of advantages.”
Stotler was disappointed with some unfortunate breaks his team had, but took nothing away from the Bellringers, calling them a "very good team."
“This was a tough game,” he said. “We were unlucky. Second goal we had a guy go down in the box, then we give up the own goal just going hard trying to defend the corner. It stinks because we’ve working so hard, we’ve been playing well. To have it come to an end tonight against East Hampton the way it did, it’s frustrating. We’ll bounce back.
“Our senior class is always our emotional leaders. With our two captains, Bryant and Zane [Lombardo], I know they’re going to take this and learn from it, make some adjustments and get ready for the next [three] games.”
Portland plays Westbrook at home Monday at 6 p.m. It will be Senior Night for the Highlanders.
In girls' soccer, East Hampton and Portland played to a 0-0 double-overtime draw.