WILDCATS 1, PANTHERS 0
It was an unceremonious return to Shoreham-Wading River for Mike Gengler Thursday afternoon.
A 1999 Shoreham graduate who coaches Miller Place, Gengler received two red cards in the final minute of a League VI match against the Wildcats. The Panthers did not have an assistant coach who was certified to take over, so the game was called with 23 seconds left and the Wildcats walked off 1-0 winners.
It was a bizarre finish to a physical game that saw both coaches hit with yellow cards for arguing with officials. Frustration with the officials began to set in for the Panthers late in the game and two players were hit with yellow cards 51 seconds apart.
Shortly after the two yellows, Gengler argued that a Shoreham player should have received one after a play that occurred right in front of the Panthers’ bench. Gengler asked the referee closest to the play if he still had the card. The referee responded by issuing a yellow card to Gengler, who continued to chirp at the referee. Two red cards then followed for Gengler, who is also a varsity assistant coach for the Shoreham baseball team.
As the teams shook hands after the game, Gengler apologized to the Shoreham players. He declined to speak to reporters after the game.
Shoreham coach Andrew Moschetti said it was the first time he’s ever been a part of a game that abruptly ended before the finish.
“I’ve got yellow cards myself in the past, I’ve been involved with coaches who got yellow cards, but never a red that turned into a double red,” he said. “I’ve never in my coaching career seen two reds.”
Regardless of the finish, the Wildcats will gladly take the victory for what may be the final home game of the season. A strong second-half of the league season has the Wildcats in the playoffs and now it’s a matter of fighting for seeding.
Shoreham improved to 6-3-2 in League VI while Miller Place fell to 5-3-2.
“It’s so close in our league besides East Hampton,” Moschetti said. “The middle four teams are going to be hopping and jumping each other.”
The Wildcats are unbeaten in their last five games (4-0-1) and they hope the momentum can continue into the playoffs.
“We changed some things up halfway through,” Moschetti said. “Since then we haven’t lost.”
The only goal in Thursday’s game came on a first-half penalty kick, which was awarded after a Miller Place handball inside the penalty area.
Moschetti said normally senior Greg Canellys will attempt a penalty kick. But he was on the bench at the time.
Before Moschetti could decide on who to have to take the kick, senior Kevin Turano took charge on the field.
“Kevin just stepped up and said, ‘I’m taking this,’ ” Moschetti said. “I like that. Sometimes you have 11 kids on the field and everyone single one of them walks away from the ball. Kevin went right up, grabbed the ball, put it under his arms and that makes the decision easy for me.”
Turano lined the ball past Miller Place goalkeeper Noah Varonier, whose first step was to his right. Turano kicked to the opposite side, leaving Varonier no chance at making the save.
Facing a team that hasn’t given up more than two goals in any game this season, the Wildcats knew it would be a low-scoring game.
“We marked up on their players,” Moschetti said, noting that junior Anthony Cusano and senior Vinny Alese marked two of Miller Place’s top scorers. “They played the game plan the way we set it up yesterday in practice and came out with a win.”
The Wildcats played an excellent first half keeping the ball deep in the Miller Place end most of the time. They generated six corner kicks. The Panthers got more opportunities in the second half, but neither team was able to convert.
The Wildcats conclude the regular season Monday at John Glenn, another team bunched with Shoreham and Miller Place in a crowded League VI. Shoreham lost 2-1 against Glenn Oct. 3, the team’s last loss.