King Joseph: Beacon stuns MLK on Nikic's 2OT tally
Knights streak of 14 straight finals appearance come to close in shocking upset
By ZACH BRAZILLER
Last Updated: 6:37 PM, November 11, 2010
A hush swept across Randall's Island Field No. 70 yesterday afternoon once Joseph Nikic's well-placed shot tucked itself inside the far post.
Nobody in attendance could believe what their eyes had just witnessed: Nikic ending four-time defending PSAL Class A boys soccer champion Martin Luther King Jr.'s reign atop the city and its 14 straight trips to the league final in spectacular fashion. But he had, the Beacon senior slotting a heavily contested right-footed shot into the far corner in the seventh minute of the second overtime of Thursday's semifinal, setting off a wild celebration five years in the making.
The fourth-seeded Blue Demons, who last won the 'A' crown in 2005, snapped their personal five-game slide to top-seeded MLK, prevailing, 2-1, and getting back to the title game, where they will face No. 2 Francis Lewis Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at St. John's University in Queens.
"It's indescribable," said Nikic, a team captain. "I never felt anything like that before, to put my team in the championship."
Nikic outworked three King (15-2-0) defenders and beat goalkeeper Moulaye Traore with his fifth goal of the postseason. The play started harmlessly enough, Nikic challenging a few fullbacks on a long ball deep into the second overtime. The ball sailed over one's head, then Guadalupe Mestizo's attempted clear hit off the side of his foot, rolling right to Nikic. He controlled with a dept touch, held off the Knights' defenders and ripped a clean shot for the dramatic game-winner.
"We left him alone up there, he was still running, his legs kept moving, because we were concerned about their midifeld," Beacon coach Alec Mahrer said. "It's just amazing what he did. Couldn't have come from a better guy and more hard-working player." "I was cramping at the end, but I've never sprinted faster to give that man a hug in my life," said senior fullback Jesse White, who was so integral to the victory, shutting down King's superstar striker, Moriken (Chelsea) Sangary. "I think this is revenge for basically the last three years. They always have our number and this year ... we said this is our team, no more Kings of the City, we're gonna play our game and we're gonna come out on top because we knew we were the better side."
After its second straight undefeated league season that included two victories over Beacon (14-2-1), MLK, ranked nationally, was the clear-cut favorite. It had the city's leading goal scorer in Sangary, a deep and skilled midfield and the untouchable aura that comes from 12 city titles in 14 years.
"Surreal, disbelief, I don't even know how it happened," MLK coach Martin Jacobson said of the season-ending loss. "It's gonna be so strange [not being in the final]. For 14 years, I've been playing for a championship. Not being able to be there is gonna be very difficult."
Beacon struck first on Luca Quinn's header in the 34th minute, but the Knights answered on Ibrahim Diaby's tally 13 minutes after halftime. MLK kept pushing, threatening throughout. Virtually the entire second half and the two overtimes were played in Beacon's end, though the Knights didn't get off many clean shots. Marked by the undersized but gritty White, Sangary was held without a goal for just the second time this year, the other time coming against Beacon as well. Diaby and Beckles, who returned after a two-game red-card suspension were active and created chances, but successfully man-marked by Quinn and Anthony Casagranda, respectively.
Just getting through to the second overtime was a struggle. Reza Malek (leg) and Lucas Taga Hall (hamstring) were forced out and Mahrer had to make the proper adjustments, dropping Casagranda to the back and getting by with Amel Dervisevic and Theo Miller at midfield. The two freshmen held their own, though, helping to keep Beacon afloat until Nikic's heroics.
"This is the deepest team from player one to any guy that came on," White said. "That's why we're such a good team. It's not one player, it's everybody." Beacon's next challenge will be somehow refocusing for Sunday's final against Francis Lewis, the Queens powerhouse which ended the Blue Demons' season in the semis last fall. After this win, the Manhattan school has no shortage of confidence. "We have one more game left," Nikic said. "But we're on our way to the top."
© By ZACH BRAZILLER | Thursday, Nov 11, 2010 | The NY Post