Volume 75, Number 26 | November 16 -22, 2005

High-scoring Jerry Boateng Bekoe, left, and teammates

Panthers pounce on Manchester, but Ducks quack last

By Judith Stiles

Everyone in New York City agrees that the election for mayor this fall was a bit of a snore, in which odds makers never for a moment predicted a close race. After coaches from the Downtown United Soccer Club dutifully cast their votes anyway, they hustled down to Pier 40 to witness the real competition on Election Day, when Borough of Manhattan Community College was the home team in a soccer match against Manchester Community College, battling to earn a spot at the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III Final Four.

As the game got underway, the B.M.C.C. Panthers dominated in the first 15 minutes, largely keeping possession of the ball. But 27 minutes into the game, Manchester’s Lamar Chancey popped one past B.M.C.C.’s goalie, putting Manchester ahead 1-0. Packs of coaches on the sidelines sharply debated whether the goalie was screened or whether or not “he was in no-man’s land and out of position,” said Coach Carlo Acquista of St. Francis College.

Down-a-goal panic did not seem to set in, though. Rather, the Panthers gained focus when freshman Jesus Cano shot from the left side at the 20-yard line, and as the Manchester goalie made the initial save, Jerry Boatang Bekoe zoomed in on the rebound and buried the ball in the right corner of the net to tie the score. Four minutes later, Cano passed a perfect through-ball to Elysee Vilsaint, who scored from 10 yards out, putting the Panthers ahead 2-1.

At halftime the players huddled for strategy adjustments, sweating buckets as they listened attentively to Coach Kennichi Yatsuhashi, who was dressed in a sharp-looking brown suit, but still cool, calm and collected, in spite of the heat. According to B.M.C.C. defender Samba Traore, Yatsuhashi wins games and is a “great coach because he always knows how to make adjustments on the field during a game.” Subsequently, Lefty Traore was moved from right fullback to the left side where he plugged up some holes on defense.

Ten minutes into the second half, B.M.C.C.’s Vilsaint unleashed a laser blast from 30 yards out, making it 3-1, Panthers. The momentum kept building and at 73 minutes Panthers midfielder Adam Makiniak made a perfect pass to Bekoe on the left side of the penalty box where, about 15 yards from the goal, he scored again, making it 4-1. “He is a man among boys,” remarked Zak Ivkovic, commissioner of CUNY athletics, describing Bekoe’s outstanding play in a nutshell. Bekoe, originally from Ghana, had just scored his 26th goal of the season and has been described by some coaches as a “goal-scoring machine.”

At 82 minutes, B.M.C.C. scored again and the game ended at 5-1. The Panthers’ fans erupted with joy and anticipation of their next game at the Final Four.

The B.M.C.C. players are originally from 14 different countries, such as Ghana, Colombia and Brazil, as well as the faraway lands of Brooklyn and Queens. Coach Yatsuhashi united them as a team, drawing on their varied international approaches to soccer, through a borderless language spoken with their feet.

Hard work, dedication and a great coach brought the number-two-seeded Panthers to the semifinals on Sat. Nov. 12 at Wehrum Stadium at Herkimer Community College in Herkimer, N.Y., to face the number-three-seeded Richland Ducks from Texas.

It was a nail-biter of a game, when at 90 minutes the feathers were flying, and they were still tied 1-1. But the Ducks of Texas got lucky-ducky as they quacked their way to victory, winning the shootout, and hence the game, as the Panthers fell short of the finals, having to settle for third place.

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