By: Sean Farrell – Staff Writer / The Record Sports Department
Evan Milionis has gone from football to fútbol.
His decision to trade in the shoulder pads for shin guards was the beginning of one of the biggest comeback stories in soccer.
The former wide receiver is becoming a top striker while turning around a program used to losing.
Cresskill’s senior already has more goals this year than any Cougar in 2016.
It’s why his team is now 5-1.
“I just come in every day ready to practice and ready to play,” Milionis said. “I don’t think of each game as a chance to score as many as possible. I just want to come and win since it’s the first time we’ve been doing it in a while.”
Coach Jorge Tuesta was skeptical when he heard the hype.
People told him the best soccer player in Cresskill was playing another sport.
The comments came before the evidence.
Then Milionis took the field for a practice this summer and Tuesta became a believer.
The kid was as good as advertised.
“This is the real deal,” said Tuesta, in his second year. “This is no joke.”
Milionis leads Cresskill with 10 goals and brings life to a team coming off back-to-back losing seasons.
The Cougars are suddenly a contender in the NJIC Patriot. They could surpass last year’s totals for wins and goals sometime in the next few games.
“It’s amazing,” senior Toby Zypman said. “We’re actually doing something special. It’s better than anything I’ve been a part of in high school.”
Milionis grew up playing football and soccer.
Feeling stronger at soccer, he spent his first two seasons at Cresskill as a primary goal-scorer.
But he changed his mind after a “demoralizing” 4-win sophomore year.
He switched to football last fall where he was used as a receiver and defensive back.
“I took a lot of stuff from the football field and brought it back here,” Milionis said. “I like this group of guys. I knew we had a good team. I wanted to play football one year, experience it under the lights. I knew I could come back.”
Expectations were already high in Cresskill going into the year.
The Cougars kept almost all of their starting lineup.
Zypman was back in the midfield, while Joe Lockhart and Justin Yee returned on defense.
Getting the speedy Milionis only made Tuesta even more bullish.
“When he came back and said he wanted to play soccer, I said OK,” Tuesta recalled. “Then once I saw this guy running and hungry and tough, now I have to teach him skill-wise. He’s amazing as a person and as a player. He changed everything.”
The offense came right away for Milionis.
After scoring twice in the first game, he set a Cougar record by getting six goals in the next one.
He doesn’t need much time or space to be dangerous. He is always ready to strike and use a blistering shot to bury his chances.
A Cougar comeback last Wednesday started with his rebound goal in the 60th minute. In the win over Park Ridge, he set up two more goals during a 4-0 run that took about 15 minutes.
Like everything with Cresskill, the turnaround started with Milionis.
“I wanted to make my mark and have a meaningful year one way or another, as an individual or as a team,” Milionis said. “I knew this was our year.”