Aviation’s amazing run ends in final

Photo by Robert Cole
By Joseph Staszewski

Aviation senior goalkeeper George Vlahakis went to each of his teammates and shook their hands as they sat and watched the Martin Luther King Jr. players receive their championship awards.

“I’m proud of all of them,” Vlahkis said.

He and his teammates have a lot to look back fondly on despite a 2-0 loss to the top-seeded and nationally ranked Knights in the PSAL Class A boys’ soccer final on Randall’s Island Sunday. The Knights won their 15th title in the last 20 years and their second straight.

Aviation, seeded No. 19, reached the school’s first title game a year after falling to MLK 8-0 in the semifinals a year ago. It beat No. 3 Francis Lewis, No. 6 New Dorp and No. 7 Tottenville to reach the championship game, after placing in its division during the regular season. Vlahkis believes this game shows the rest of the city the Flyers are for real.

“You can’t say it’s luck,” Vlahkis said. “Two years in a row we made it far.”

He gave Aviation (12-5-0) a chance to take home the crown. Vlahkis made three diving saves in the first 20 minutes and another in the second half. It appeared the teams were headed to half time scoreless, but MLK’s Ibrahim Lakanobo scored into the lower left-hand corner on a shot across the box for a 1-0 lead in the 38th minute.

The Flyers believed they found the equalizer when Jonathan Jaramillo appeared to head in a cross. The referees ruled it no goal and gave him a yellow card for punching the ball in. Jarmillo said he headed it, but also leaned in with his shoulder.

“We were about to celebrate and all our hopes went down,” Jarmillo, a junior, said.

That was the best chance Aviation created as the Knights’ (17-0-0) speedy backline kept Jarmillo and star sophomore forward Ousmane Barry in check. They were unable to turn dangerous through balls up the sidelines into shots. MLK put the game out of reach when Michael Henry scored in the 78th minute, ending Aviation’s miracle run. It didn’t stop the Flyers’ coach from leaving proud of what his team accomplished.

“It was a Cinderella run,” Aviation Coach Mario Cotumaccio said. “Who would think that a team that was seeded 19 would make it to the finals and hang with Martin Luther King?”

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