For the 1st time since Wilton joined the league in 1971, Staples and the Warriors were not scheduled for an FCIAC match. They met in a pre-season scrimmage — before the Wreckers made final cuts — but, thanks to Wilton’s 1-0 upset win over Greenwich in the FCIAC quarters, and Staples’ 1-0 overtime victory against Trumbull, the 39-year streak remains alive.
Tonight’s match was played at Fairfield Ludlowe’s Taft Field — the longtime home of the FCIAC semifinals. Two years ago the Westporters shut out Norwalk 3-0 there; last year they edged Greenwich 1-0.
Tonight’s match started out Staples’ way. The 1st shot came just 25 seconds in. Three minutes later Greg Gudis fed a great ball to Max Hoberman.
Gudis paced the Wreckers for much of the 1st half. He had attacking help from Hoberman, Steve Smith, Jake Krosse and Lorenz Esposito — and the excellent overlapping of defender Frankie Bergonzi — but despite good pressure, the Wreckers could not solve the stubborn Warrior defense.
Suddenly, with less than a minute to go, Mikey Scott took his 1st throw-in of the game. The hard-working midfielder had missed the previous 2 matches after taking 30 stitches in the forehead following a collision in training with Ben Root. (The junior defender — who filled in so ably during Steven Denowitz’s injury, and was now the 1st back off the bench — sustained a concussion that will keep him out for at least another week.)
Scott had been inserted into the game just 5 minutes earlier. His long throw was flicked on by Brendan Lesch. Bergonzi — in exactly the right spot — headed Lesch’s feed home. The clock showed just 32 seconds before halftime.
A goal like that can deflate the team that was scored on — or pump them up. The Wreckers talked at intermission about the need to play smart, controlled, combination soccer in the 2nd half — and they did.
The first 20 minutes, in particular, looked good. Gudis and Krosse both missed just wide. Then Bergonzi — still pushing forward — served a great diagonal ball. Lesch picked it up in stride, and deked it in for a 2-0 lead.
The blue-and-whites continued to press. Jake Malowitz made runs out of the back; Court Lake pressed forward, as did Sean Gallagher, the furthest man back.
James Hickok kept things tight and honest in goal.
AJ Green, Taylor McNair, Harry Birch and Dylan Hoy all came off the bench, and kept the pressure on.
The victory vaults the Wreckers into their 3rd straight FCIAC final — and 4th in the past 5 years. They meet Fairfield Warde — winners by a 3-0 count over New Canaan — at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Norwalk High’s Testa Field.
“I feel great for our guys,” said head coach Dan Woog. “After our slow start this year, they responded tremendously. They understood what was at stake; they got to work; they made good things happen.
“I’m especially happy for our seniors — 7 have been with us for all 3 finals. This is a great tribute to all they have done for Staples soccer, for so long. And, as we often say, the best is yet to come.” Final score: Staples 2, Wilton 0. Season record: 15-2-1.
QUICK KICKS: The FCIAC finals were almost an all-Staples affair. After upsetting New Canaan 4-1 in the girls quarterfinal, the Wreckers dropped a tough 1-0 decision to Greenwich in tonight’s semi at Wilton’s Kristin Lilly Field.