As so often happens, the boys FCIAC final was delayed long past its scheduled 7 p.m. start. Staples and Ridgefield — and 1,500 fans — watched as the Ridgefield and New Canaan girls battled through 2 overtimes to a 0-0, co-champion draw.
The boys match began 40 minutes late, and as often happens it started at a frenetic pace. That suited the Wreckers — a quick-passing, fast-running, excellent-on-turf team — just fine. They controlled the tempo in the opening minutes, and drew 1st blood just 8:43 in. Mikey Fitzgerald played a quick free kick to Mike White. The forward wheeled and dealed, then found Greg Gudis wide open. The junior left-footed the ball in — a goal straight out of the Westporters’ popular “shoot the moon” training exercise.
Seven minutes later it was 2-0. Drew McNair took a rare throw backward. Frankie Bergonzi instantly went forward, splitting the Tigers and freeing up Mikey Scott. His junior classmate raced forward, finishing convincingly to the bottom right corner.
The blue-and-white defense, and midfielders Brendan Lesch and Alan Reiter, consistently denied Ridgefield’s star striker, Connor McCarthy, the ball. When the Harvard-bound senior got the ball, he was limited to long-range shots. Still, the Tigers were dangerous going forward, keeping Bergonzi, Fitzgerald, the very steady Sean Gallagher and always-reliable Jack Hennessy on their toes.
Jake Krosse and Lesch almost connected with 1 minute left in the 1st half — but suddenly the Tigers slipped through. Keeper Michael McCarthy saved a very difficult shot — but the ball rebounded out to Alexander Petralia, who hammered it home. Just 44 seconds remained before intermission.
The seemingly secure 2-0 lead had suddenly been halved. A goal right before halftime could pump up the team that scored, and devastate the one that surrendered it. Staples’ halftime talk was simple: Don’t worry. You’re in the lead, and in control — go in for the kill.
In fact, Ridgefield’s strike jolted the Wreckers out of any sense of complacency. They began the 2nd half as fiercely as the 1st, and this time there was no letup. A penalty kick in the 49th minute seemed about to increase their lead — but Tiger keeper Sean Ceponis (like McCarthy, an All-FCIAC pick) — saved well.
Again, that dramatic turn of events could have deflated a lesser squad.
It didn’t. The Wreckers quickly earned 2 quick corner kicks; the ensuing goalmouth scrambles created havoc in Ridgefield’s box. Staples didn’t score, but they were knocking on the door.
The door opened in the 58th minute. Gudis timed a corner kick perfectly to an onrushing Lesch. Running on, he headed down and in — no easy feat, but a fine goal. Once again the Westporters were up by 2.
Matteo Marzoli to McNair in the 66th minute almost made it a 3-goal edge — and then, 2 minutes later, it was. White hit Lesch for the junior midfielder’s 2nd head goal of the day. This one was a diving header, even more dramatic than his 1st.
Steven Denowitz came on to nail down the defense; seniors Justin Hawrysh, Nate Greenberg, Jason Bennett and Nick Cion got good runs in, and the mass of Staples Superfans got ready to rush the field. But a PA announcement — and a vicious-looking police dog — ended that idea.
Instead, when the game was over, the Staples team rushed the stands. They raced over to the large crowd, celebrating with them a 2nd straight FCIAC championship. History will note it was the Wreckers’ 3rd in 4 years — 26th in their 51-year history — and Staples’ 1st back-to-back crowns since 1990-91. But to the 2009 team, this 1 was as sweet as any.
And that’s the joy of high school soccer — Staples style. Final score: Staples 4, Ridgefield 1. Season record: 17-2.
QUICK KICKS: Mike White was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, in a vote of FCIAC coaches….
The match will be televised tomorrow (Thursday, Nov. 5), at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. on MSG Varsity (Cablevision Channel 14 in Westport)….
The Wreckers outshot Ridgefield 22-12, and led in corner kicks 6-1….
In the 3-game FCIAC tournament, Staples outscored their opponents 10-1….
Although the 1990 and ’91 teams won back-to-back FCIAC crowns, 1 was as co-champion. Staples’ last back-to-back outright titles came in 1980 and ’81 — actually 3, including ’79 right before it….
The All-FCIAC team, announced today, includes keeper Michael McCarthy, defender Jack Hennessy, and midfielders Alan Reiter and Brendan Lesch. Forward Mike White made the All-Eastern Division squad.