BY JORDANA PEARLMAN
The Jericho Hotspur, a boys U12 team playing in the Premier Division of the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) completed their spring 2019 season with a feat no previous Jericho team has accomplished. The team finished in first place, further capturing the Long Island Cup BU12 major bracket championship.
Led on the attack by Noah Osei-Tutu and Dylan Chawla, and anchored by center back Reilly Minor, the Hotspur team captured their first division title last fall, with a 6–2–2 record and tallying up 20 points. The 20 points put them one marker ahead of a three-way tie for second place, which was knotted up amongst the Hauppauge Fury, NHP Wildcats and Great Neck Fire. The division was not settled until the final game of the season. In the spring, the Hotspur had clinched the title with one week remaining in the season, the day prior to the final game of the Long Island Cup.
The Hotspur began their spring campaign looking to defend their 2018 regular season title. But the focus starting with the first game of 2019 was to capture their first championship in the largest junior soccer tournament on the island, the Long Island Cup. The Long Island Cup plays its games through the spring season as additions to the traditional league schedule. The 2007 major bracket began play in March, with 20 teams from the top-two divisions of LIJSL.
Somewhat ironically, the Hotspur’s most difficult game was in the first round of the Cup, narrowly squeaking by the Elwood Warriors in a 1–1 game that went to six rounds of penalty kicks to decide the outcome. The Hotspur cruised through rounds two and three, beating division rivals Lake Grove, 3–0, and the Hauppauge Fury, 4–0. This set up the Father’s Day finale at Stony Brook University against the Rockville Center Thunder.
In only the eighth minute of the championship match, the Thunder struck first on a beautifully centered ball from the left corner. While it would have been easy for Jericho to feel dejected after allowing the opening goal, 10 minutes later, the Hotspur got on the scoreboard after Osei-Tutu buried a bullet to the left corner of the goal on a spectacular through pass from Ben Orr after being fed a perfect pass from Josh Rubin. The game entered halftime tied one-all.
Jericho dominated play in the second half, sending balls from all angles behind the Thunder’s defense. But they were unable to find the back of the net. In the 14th minute of the second half, a cross found Chawla alone on the right side of the six-yard box. Escaping Rockville Center’s keepers’ clutches, he maneuvered around and tapped a ball across the goal line to give Jericho its first lead of the game.
Four minutes later, Jericho left wing Eric Barbero played a ball to Osei-Tutu at the top of the penalty area, who combined on a beautiful give-and-go to put the ball inside the left post. 12 minutes later, the Hotspur accomplished something they did not think was doable, locking up Long Island Cup championship.
Jordana Pearlman is a recent graduate of Jericho High School.