East Hampton senior JC Barrientos and sophomore Nick West have been playing soccer together since their days in elementary school. The two have a chemistry on the field together that bodes well for the Bonackers and it showed up on Monday in the Suffolk County Class A high school boys soccer championship at Dowling College in Shirley.
Barrientos assisted on both of West’s goals—the game-winner coming in the 16th minute of the second half—and helped to clinch the County Championship for second-seeded East Hampton, which successfully defended its Class A title in a 2-1 victory over fourth-seeded Elwood/John Glenn.
The Bonackers will be making their second-straight appearance in the Long Island Class A Championship on Wednesday against the Nassau County Class A champ Jericho at Dowling College in Shirley at 4 p.m. East Hampton will be looking for some revenge as the Jayhawks defeated the Bonackers in last year’s L.I. championship and both teams played to a 1-1 tie earlier this season in a non-league game. There will be a $7 admission to Wednesday’s game.
East Hampton head coach Rich King was ecstatic after the final whistle and went onto the field to congratulate his players with hugs. The Bonackers graduated many players from last season and only have four seniors this season.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said of winning another county title. “We’re not satisfied, though. Last year, we lost in the Long Island Championship and that left a sour taste in our mouth. So we’re going to enjoy this, we’re going to focus and we’re going to play a tough Jericho. But with four seniors on our roster, to repeat as champs, there’s nothing more you can ask for. So we’re going to go out on Wednesday and try our best.”
Barrientos said it felt great to get the victory, but it didn’t come easy. “With all the seniors that left last year, it was very difficult,” he said. “In the beginning of the season, we said we could do it. Anything is possible.”
East Hampton took an early 1-0 lead nearly seven minutes into Monday’s game. Barrientos found West in the middle of the field, and he was able to get behind the Glenn defense for an open shot and scored in the bottom left-hand corner to give the Bonackers a 1-0 lead.
But the Knights mounted a comeback, as it did in its 3-2 victory over top-seeded Sayville in the semifinals on Saturday. With 16:28 remaining in the first half, Christian Molina made a nice individual effort, continuing to run through the ball. He was eventually able to get behind the East Hampton defense and score in the bottom left-hand portion of the goal to tie things up.
King thought his team let up a little after scoring the first goal of the game. “We kind of dropped our tempo, we dropped our pace, we lost our focus a little bit and then the best thing to happen to us was halftime,” he said. “We regained our composure in the second half and I think we did a great job playing into the wind and regaining our momentum. We were relentlessly attacking, that’s our style. So when that’s happening, we’re playing well.”
In the 17th minute of the second half, Glenn senior Adan Cruz-Velasquez pushed himself into the Bonackers’ box with the ball, but East Hampton sophomore goal keeper Nick Tulp came out and corralled the ball to preserve the tie.
Just a minute later, sophomore Bonacker Esteban Valverde brought the ball down the right wing and into the corner. He crossed the ball into the box where Barrientos took it for a moment and passed to West, who was cutting into the box. West shook his defender and shot the ball into the bottom left-hand corner to give East Hampton a 2-1 lead and the eventual victory.
Barrientos commented after the game on his chemistry with West. “I saw West making a run, so what I did was take the first touch,” he said. “I knew he was breaking in the box, so I passed it to him and I know he can finish those.”
Once he saw Barrientos get past the Glenn defenders, West said he knew he had to make the run into the box. “I knew not to make a back-post run because it wouldn’t have been there. The defender would have just hit it right away,” he said. “So I decided to run near-post and J.C. slotted it perfectly and it was an easy shot after that.
“He’s just a phenomenal player. Not just in this game, but in every game,” West said of his teammate, Barrientos. “It’s nearly impossible to get the ball off his foot. He’s got one of the best touches in the county and when he has the ball, I just feel so much more confident because I can have time to run off and it just makes for much more dangerous plays.”