There’s just something about Juan Ponce and penalty kicks in state quarterfinal games.
The Amityville midfielder sent his team to Middletown in 2016 as a seventh grader. (That’s right, he was a seventh grader at Miles Middle School.)
Ponce did it again — this time as a senior — on Sunday when he converted a penalty kick with 15:56 left that gave Amityville a two-goal lead.
Garden City scored with 10:03 left, but never found the equalizer as Amityville earned a hard-fought 3-2 win in the Long Island Class A championship / Southeast Regional final before a crowd of 500 at Longwood.
Amityville (17-1-1) advances to the state semifinal and faces East Syracuse Minoa (19-2) at 4:45 p.m. Saturday in Middletown.
After Bryce Cherry — who scored four goals in Thursday’s Suffolk final — was taken down on the box with 13:06 remaining, Ponce immediately walked up to the penalty spot.
“I’m built for moments like this,” said Ponce, who wore a T-shirt under his jersey that read “Tough times made me.”
He missed all of his junior season with various injuries. Ponce, who now has 15 goals and 16 assists, converted the PK with 13:06 left to give Amityville a 3-1 lead.
However, Garden City (16-2-1) wasn’t done. Steven Zuniga scored to make it 3-2 with 11:27 left.
“It was just one of those games,” Garden City coach Paul Cutter said. “Two great teams and it could have gone either way.”
Manny Salazar was solid with seven saves in the win. James Castoro had five stops for Garden City, which led 1-0 in the ninth minute when Nick Bernieri scored off a feed from Finn Connolly.
Amityville responded when a long ball by Edwin Acosta connected with Stanley Louis, who deked a Garden City player and scored to make it 1-1 in the 14th minute. It stayed that way until the second half.
Sophomore defender Norvin Martinez Hernandez listened to captain Roberth Perez just before a corner kick by Edwin Acosta and scored his first varsity goal with 15:56 left in regulation.
“I told Norvin to go back post,” Perez said. “I went to the near post, a bunch of players followed me, and Norvin took care of the rest.”
The two teams played to a 2-2 tie in a rare non-league match on Oct. 16.
Amityville is now 4-0 all-time in L.I. title games (it also won in 2015, 2106, 2018) and captured state crowns in 2015 and 2018.
Amityville coach Mike Abbondondolo couldn’t stop talking about all his players after the game, but especially Ponce.
“He’s a leader,” he said, “and he’s the type of player that makes everyone better.”
Especially when it comes to state quarterfinal penalty kicks.