MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. -- In early September, the bulk of the season still ahead of them, the Port Jefferson boys soccer team took a poll to determine a realistic goal for the season. The result was nearly unanimous -- 22 of 23 players wrote "state championship."
It was a bold statement for a team that had never won a state title.
And yet, Sunday, the Royals can turn that prediction into a prophecy.
Blake Bohlen scored off an assist from Vincent Antonelli with 10:49 left in the first half and Port Jefferson held on for a 1-0 win over Lansing in the Class C state soccer semifinals at Middletown High School Saturday morning.
The Royals (18-1-1) play Maple Hill in the championship game at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Middletown High School.
"It means everything to us," Bohlen said. "We've never won states before and we want to make history. We want to win the whole thing."
The go-ahead shot was the junior's second clutch goal in as many games. His goal in the second overtime of the Class C Southeast Regional Final last week -- also on a feed from Antonelli -- sent the Royals to the state tournament.
"It's been a team effort," Bohlen said. "I've just been there in the right spot, finishing the ball."
Saturday the right spot seemed to be wherever Bohlen was. He had several close scoring chances and nearly nailed a shot in the 17th minute, executing a 360-degree turnaround from about 15 yards out to buck defenders. With Lansing off balance, Bohlen took a shot, but the chance was denied.
"That was a really good chance," he said. "I beat a few kids, I had the shot. But I was a little off balance. So I just stayed patient, because I knew I could do it once I had the opportunity."
That chance came just minutes later as Bohlen took a feed up the middle, waited for the goalie to advance slightly out of the goal and then fired the ball into the net.
"He's a player that I know other coaches are very aware of, very fearful of," coach John Poulianos said. "I think we've matured very quickly as a playoff team, as a state tournament team. Blake is obviously the engine that drives the train so to speak. He is a big player. But he also has a lot of good players around him."
Port Jefferson continually pressured Lansing (19-1) throughout the first half, but only got a few decent looks in the second, as it defended its slim lead. Gabe Davis (six saves) corralled a dangerous Lansing penalty kick with 19 minutes to go, the Bobcats' best scoring chance of the second half.
"Gabe is a very, very, very good keeper on a very, very good team," Poulianos said. "What ends up happening is during the course of the regular season, you really don't get the acknowledgment or the recognition. Then you get to this level and that's when that quality keeper becomes that essential component to carry you through to the next game."