By Andrew Wroblewski
For the second time in three seasons, the Hills West Colts went into Commack as an underdog and came out with a 1-0 overtime win to keep their quest for a Suffolk championship alive.
The Colts, seeded fifth overall, were lifted by a Leo Musacchia header that banked off the far post and into the back of the net, ending top-seeded Commack’s season in the Suffolk Class AA semifinals.
Hills West similarly defeated Commack, 1-0, in overtime in the 2015-2016 playoffs.
As they were two seasons ago, on Tuesday the two sides found themselves locked in a stalemate through regulation as they dealt with cold and windy conditions.
Hills West goalkeeper and captain Ben Nacht was tested several times, including on a blast off a Commack free kick in the 74th minute that he coolly dove to his right to punch away and preserve the tie.
Half Hollow Hills High School West boys soccer coach Doug Gannon later called it “one of the saves of the year."
"It kept our season alive,” he added.
Commack had a golden opportunity to score in the opening minutes of the golden-goal overtime period, but blasted a shot over the crossbar from close range.
The Colts responded by getting the ball into their offensive half, securing a throw in deep in the Cougars’ territory. Nick Duchatellier launched the throw in towards Commack’s net and Musacchia did the rest, shocking Commack.
Gannon called his team’s effort “awesome,” applauding the Colts resiliency.
“The kids played hard,” he added.
Gannon further added that Musacchia, who he called a candidate for Suffolk County Player of the Year, made a “remarkable play” to win it for Hills West.
“He was triple teamed on that throw in,” Gannon said, adding that Musacchia “sees the field at a different level and slows the game down.”
Gannon also praised his defensive players, many of whom have been dealing with injuries throughout the season, or have stepped in to defensive position in order to fill gaps left behind by injuries.
“It’s that next-man-up mentality,” Gannon said, adding that “they’ve been really fantastic over the last few games.”
Looking ahead to the Colts’ opponent, seventh-seeded Smithtown West, which the Colts will face in the Suffolk Class AA championship, Gannon said the two sides employ similar tactics.
“They play very much the same as us: direct,” he said, adding that the Bulls are especially tough in set-piece situations.
Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. at Islip High School (2508 Union Blvd.) on Thursday, Nov. 2. There will be a $6 admission charge.