SOMERS – No matter how old you are, a good meal is always something to look forward to.
Little league coaches often buy their players pizza after the game, and high school athletes aren’t immune to the charms of their favorite foods, either. Lakeland coach Tim Hourahan decided to try that tactic when Wednesday’s league game against Somers went into overtime, promising a Big Mac from McDonald’s to whoever scored the winning goal.
That was all that Arben Hoxhaj needed to hear.
“That was the only thing that motivated me at that point,” the junior forward said with a wide grin. “I had to go for it. I needed that Big Mac, so I’ll have to hold him to his word.”
Less than one minute into the second overtime period, Hoxhaj fed Dhruv Girgenti, who weaved through two defenders and sent it right back to Hoxhaj. He calmly put it into the back of the net, giving the Hornets a much-needed 2-1 win.
It marked the first loss of the season for the Tuskers and first-year coach Brian Lanzetta, who entered the game as the only unbeaten team remaining in Section 1 at 11-0. They had allowed just two goals all year prior to Wednesday, but Lakeland doubled that total in one day.
“We were looking forward to it a lot because they’re a great team,” said Lakeland senior Matias Prando, who scored the equalizer to force overtime. “Everyone was talking about them, and we just proved ourselves to those people.”
Player of the game: Arben Hoxhaj, Lakeland — Coming off of the bench, the junior gave the Hornets and their tired legs a big lift. This was Lakeland’s sixth overtime game of the season and only second win in those contests, thanks in large part to Hoxhaj’s heroics.
Turning point: Max Grell scored for Somers in the closing minutes of the first half, and the Tuskers seemed to be on their way to yet another win. But in the 69th minute, Prando booted a volley into the back of the net to tie it at 1-1. The Hornets looked like a newborn team from that point forward.
“It was a corner kick that got deflected in the box,” Prando said. “It came back to me, and I saw three guys running to it. I just kicked it to the back post. I had to go for it. It was now or never.”
Stat line: Lakeland (5-3-2) — Prando scored in the 69th minute and Hoxhaj in the 91st. Girgenti had an assist and Nick Estrella made 11 saves. The Hornets took 14 shots. Somers (11-1) — Grell scored in the 39th minute on a throw-in from Graham Roediger. Kenny Kurtz made eight saves and the Tuskers took 17 shots.
Quotable: “It’s an incredible feeling,” Hoxhaj said. “This is our sixth overtime game, and after every single game, it’s this really sour feeling. This is finally the feeling that we want. That’s a driving factor for the rest of the season.”