Wildcats advance to finals for shot to repeat as champs
By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
Suffield - posted Tue., Nov. 20, 2012
The Suffield High School boys’ soccer team had big shoes to fill at the beginning of the 2012 season, coming off a 2011 campaign as Class M champions, compiling a 19-1 record, surrendering two goals all season, and replacing eight senior starters. By most accounts, their 2012 season was supposed to be a rebuilding year, but the emergence of a dedicated sophomore class and strong junior class has propelled the Wildcats back to the Class M finals for a chance to win back-to-back state championships - something that has never been done in school history.
“Everyone is on board with the tradition in Suffield soccer, and it just shows we have the ability to reload,” coach Mark Beigel said. “I would never expect to have a rebuilding season like this, but these guys bought in. We did make a lot of mistakes this season, we had a lot of inexperienced players on and off the field, and we just hung together and somehow kept coming out on top. There are some guys on this team that have been through a lot and they absolutely deserve this.”
The second-seeded Wildcats (18-1) played the third-seeded Montville Indians (17-2) to a scoreless draw through regulation and two overtimes before defeating them 3-2 in penalty kicks, on Nov. 17, at Rosek-Skubel Stadium at Middletown High School.
After some early-game jitters, the two teams settled in and played an evenly-matched first half, with both teams having chances to attack but failing to connect and earn some strong shots and score. In the second half, Suffield’s conditioning and depth may have gotten the best of Montville, as the Wildcats controlled the right of play, maintaining possession and furiously attacking the Indian backlines. Suffield kept the ball in Montville’s half of the field for a majority of the final 15 minutes, with the ball barely being played back to the defense on Suffield’s side and never reaching their goalie. Suffield out-shot Montville 20-6 in the game and held the advantages on corner kicks by an 8-2 margin.
“Those guys know how to hang in there,” Beigel said. “They wouldn’t let it get across the line. That ball was on the goal line five or six times in the last 15 minutes. Championship teams find a way, and they were trying to establish themselves as that championship team today.”
The two teams played an evenly-matched first overtime before the Suffield offense came out in the second overtime determined to put the game away. The Wildcats earned four corner kicks in the final 10 minutes and had opportunities to score on all three but the resilient Montville defense did not concede and forced penalty kicks.
Beigel was confident going into the penalty kicks and knew that junior goalie Ben Woodhouse was one of the reasons why the Wildcats had made it this far on the season. He has only given up three goals all season, and none since Sept. 24. In a rare occurrence, both teams missed their first two shots. They proceeded to score on their next two shots.
In his first game in almost two months because of mononucleosis, junior defender Colin McFarlane was selected by the coaches to take the decisive shot for the Wildcats. McFarlane showed no rust as he calmly put away the penalty kick in the lower right-hand corner. Montville’s Zachary Foley had the chance to force a second set of penalty kicks, but Woodhouse correctly dove to the right side of the net and the shot grazed his fingertips before bouncing off the post away from the net to give Suffield the victory and a chance at school history.
The championship game against top seed Bacon Academy (19-0-0) was set for Friday, Nov. 23, at 1:30 p.m. in Middletown.