A thrilling one-goal showdown for first place between Hillcrest and the High School for Arts & Business was marred by violent collisions, players complaining of punching, and several skirmishes that almost resulted in a full-blown free-for-all.
“It was crazy out there,” Hillcrest midfielder Kareem Howard said.
Despite the match’s physical nature, Hillcrest was able to reign victorious in the hotly contested affair, 1-0, at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, taking over first place in Queens B-III. The Hawks, the division’s defending champions, moved to 7-0-0 while the Bulls dropped to 6-1-0.
The rough play started during the final 20 minutes of play. It began in earnest when a penalty shot was awarded to the Hawks after a Bulls fullback tripped up Omar Edwards in the penalty area. Arts & Business voiced their displeasure with the call; their keeper punted the ball downfield, resulting in a yellow card that forced midfielder Salvatore Sinnona to move into goal for the deciding kick.
Howard lined up and punched the ball along the ground to the right, past a diving Sinnona for the game’s lone tally. “I usually try to go down there,” Howard said. “Goalies can’t dive to their left.”
Sinnona said he had played goalie earlier in the year, but it was still difficult switching in the middle of the game. He added he “jumped too early” off his line and that is why he was unable to make the save.
Soon thereafter play grew even more physical. The increased aggression led to two players getting into a tussle near midfield causing the two benches to clear. Later, Edwards was given a yellow card for kicking at a Hawks player.
While the referees were assessing yellow cards, Bulls players began screaming as one of their teammates sprawled on the ground holding the back of his head. Arts & Business complained to the ref that their teammate was punched in the back of the head. No penalties or cards were handed out.
After the final whistle sounded, the teams started pushing and shoving, leading to the benches clearing once again. Even fans of the respective clubs stormed the field. Both teams had to be separated and the customary post-game handshake never took place.
“Games like this can wake us up,” Bulls Coach Carlos Bolanos said. “We can’t get into dirty play.”
Stay tuned. The teams will meet again October 22.