Hastings received a stern reminder on Wednesday, one that its coach, Fred Sandhop, hopes will resonate.
With the Yellow Jackets up 1-0 in their regional semifinal game against Section 9’s Fallsburg, Kelvin Nunez equalized with less than eight minutes to play in a Class B regional semifinal at Middletown High, presenting the possibility that the Yellow Jackets’ season could end sooner than expected.
Senior forward Jackson Silverstein saved the day with the winning goal with three minutes to play, giving Hastings a heart-stopping 2-1 victory. Next up is Section 8 champ Carle Place in the regional final at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Mitchell Field in Garden City.
“We did not play our best game, and we know from being there last year that playing a Long Island team is much different,” Sandhop said. “If we don’t amp up our game, it’s going to be a long bus ride back on Saturday. We’re looking forward to the challenge, but it’s going to be a hard game for us to win.”
Silverstein, who suffered a cut over his eye that would require a trip to the hospital for stitches after the game, was responsible for both Yellow Jackets’ goals.
He’s been an unsung hero on Hastings’ march to back-to-back Section 1 titles and is up to 13 goals for the season.
“He’s been a really important player this whole season,” said junior Willem Bos, who assisted on both of Silverstein’s goals. “His positivity and his energy helps us in every game.”
Bos called it a “wake-up call” when the previously-unbeaten Comets tied it at 1-1 so late in the game, which led to the Jackets playing with increased urgency.
“It really started with Oscar Pereira bringing the ball up,” Bos said. “I made a run into the box, and he found me. I saw Jackson in the middle, he made a nice turn and just put it away.”
Silverstein’s first goal came on a header in 28th minute, but Fallsburg came out more aggressive in the second half.
“They switched their formation up after halftime and put more players up top,” Sandhop said. “They got a bunch more looks on us, and we made a mistake that cost us with about eight minutes left. At that point, we thought it was going to be a tie.”
Fortunately for Hastings (18-1-1), overtime wasn’t necessary.
The Jackets will now head to the regional final for the second consecutive year. They won on that stage last season before losing in the state semifinals, and they believe that experience will benefit them this time around.
“Last year, we lost in the state final four, which was a huge disappointment,” Bos said. “With the remaining players from last year, we’re determined to win the whole thing. I think we have what it takes.”