By Andrew Wroblewski
As the boys soccer teams from Northport and Walt Whitman high schools faced off on Friday, tensions ran high.
While the Tigers (1-0) would end up defeating the Wildcats 4-3 in the League II opener, both sides collectively bowed their heads when play stopped with just minutes to go in the second half.
As the result of a bang-bang play, Walt Whitman’s senior captain, Albert Martinez, fell to the ground and remained there. Play stopped, players rushed to his side, and soon, coaches did too. Martinez stayed on the ground for more than 15 minutes and only left the field when he was moved onto a stretcher and taken to the hospital by an ambulance from the East Northport Fire Department.
Wildcats’ Head Coach John DiGiacomo confirmed on Tuesday that Martinez had to have a CT scan on his jaw and later met with an oral surgeon to repair some damage to his teeth. DiGiacomo said Martinez hopes to return to the field by the end of the week.
Once the ambulance left on Friday, though, play resumed – but without DiGiacomo on the sidelines. The Wildcats’ head coach instead accompanied Martinez to the hospital as Brian Karcz, Walt Whitman’s assistant coach, stepped into his place.
With just a few minutes remaining in the game – and trailing by a goal – the Wildcats (0-1) pressured Northport, but failed to capitalize in what would turn out to be an extremely physical and grueling contest that resulted in Walt Whitman’s first loss of the season.
“It’s difficult to see one of your senior captains go down,” Karcz said after the game. “We had a few missed opportunities… It was a tough, emotional game.”
Heading into halftime, Northport nursed a 3-2 lead, but after the break Walt Whitman’s junior forward Witman Hernandez quickly leveled the score.
As it turned out, the momentum would be short-lived for the Wildcats as Andrew Gormal, a senior midfielder for Northport, capitalized on a mistake in the offensive end by Walt Whitman. In the resulting counterattack Gormal put the ball into the back of the net and put Northport back in front.
“This was like a playoff game; it was extremely intense – back and forth… But a good game for us,” Northport’s Head Coach Don Strasser said in the moments after the contest. “Walt Whitman is a tough team… After the stoppage we came out a little slow, but after a few seconds we got right back into it.”
Hoping to bounce back from the loss, Walt Whitman was once again in action on Tuesday, but the game occurred after press time. Today, the Wildcats travel to Lindenhurst for a 4 p.m. date with the Bulldogs.
Northport, on the other hand, hoped to keep the momentum going into Tuesday when it traveled to Central Islip, in a game that also kicked off after press time. The Tigers are also in action today at 4:15 p.m., welcoming Connetquot to town for another League II showdown.