History was made Wednesday afternoon as East Meadow completed an improbable run to its first-ever Nassau County boys’ soccer championship with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Plainview in the Class AAA final at Mitchel Athletic Complex.
The lowest seed in the eight-team playoff tournament, the Jets scored all four of their goals in the first half in brisk and breezy conditions and held off a late surge by the second-seeded Hawks, who captured the Class AA county title last fall.
“The last 15 minutes felt like an eternity,” East Meadow coach Bryan Horrmann said. “I kept glancing at the clock and it seemed like it was barely moving. Credit to Plainview they really battled. It was an incredible feeling when that horn finally sounded. It’s surreal.”
Senior striker Robert Derwin scored twice, and senior Raymond McLeod and junior Dylan Wauchope both found the back of the net for a third straight postseason game for the Jets (10-5-2), who eliminated top-seeded Uniondale and No. 4 Baldwin in the quarterfinals and semis, respectively.
“Coming into the playoffs as the eighth seed, nobody really gave us a chance,” said Derwin, who joined the defensive zone in crunch time. “We believed in each other and our coaches believed in us. We proved everyone else wrong. It’s a dream come true.”
It didn’t take long for East Meadow to make a statement the clock wasn’t going to strike midnight on its Cinderella story. McLeod headed in a long throw-in from senior Evan Weinstein just 5:34 into the match and the Jets never relinquished the lead.
“It’s amazing to make school history,” said senior goalkeeper Jack DeVoti, who worked behind a defense led by senior Roderick Rodriguez, juniors Andrew Velasquez and Esteben Canales-Moreno, and freshman Jose Flores.
Derwin’s first goal came with 10 minutes remaining in the opening half off a feed from Canales-Moreno and made it 2-0. After Nicolas Shuleshov got Plainview on the board with a penalty kick, Derwin answered with a blast from 30 yards out and Wauchope delivered his third penalty kick goal of the playoffs for a 4-1 advantage.
The Jets, who will face either Brentwood or Ward Melville Sunday at 4 p.m. in the Long Island Class AAA championship game at Patchogue-Medford High School, needed every bit of the cushion.
“Plainview’s a great team that beat us during the regular season,” Horrmann said. “We knew no lead was going to be too safe, especially with the wind at their backs in the second half. Our guys just kept rising to the challenge and I’m so proud of them.”
The Hawks got within 4-2 at intermission on Manny Paulo’s goal with less than three minutes left in the opening half.
Plainview, which defeated East Meadow 2-0 Sept. 14, dominated possession in the second half and finally got within one with 18 minutes to go on Shuleshov’s second of the game.
“It was a huge difference defending in the second half,” DeVoti said. “It was a real challenge with the wind in our faces. They kept hitting the ball over the top, but fortunately we have a strong defense.”