FAIRFIELD — Jason Fromme isn’t usually on the field during the opening minutes of the first half. As one of the first players off the bench for the Ludlowe boys soccer team, Fromme is usually still in his warm-ups when the ball gets put into play.
“He isn’t one of our starters, but he’s a kid I love to put in around the 20-minute mark,” Ludlowe coach Kevin O’Hara said. “He always brings instant energy.”
Since it was Senior Night, O’Hara decided to give Fromme the nod, putting him on the field to start the regular-season finale against Norwalk along with seven other seniors.
Fromme didn’t waste his opportunity, scoring two goals over the first 15 minutes of the first half, helping Ludlowe nail down the third seed for the FCIAC playoffs with a 3-2 victory over the Bears Wednesday night at Taft Field. The Bears meanwhile still managed to make the tournament as well, clocking in as the No. 8 seed despite Wednesday’s loss. The Bears will visit No. 1 Greenwich on Friday.
“Before tonight, I think (Fromme) had four or five goals for us, so he’s definitely a goal scorer,” O’Hara said. “But being Senior Night and getting the start put an extra bounce in his step. He definitely contributed over the first 20 minutes.”
Fromme put the Falcons up 1-0 in the fourth minute of the game, taking a great feed up the right sideline from senior Eric Winjum and beating Norwalk sophomore goalie Tyler Dalton inside the right post with a nice short-side shot.
After Winjum put the Falcons up 2-0 off an assist by Erik Stahle in the 10th minute, Fromme struck again, this time finishing off a double header off a free kick by senior Mark Dubovsky to give the Falcons a three-goal advantage.
That ended up being the deciding goal as Norwalk (7-6-3) made a gutsy comeback attempt with two unanswered goals over the final 47 minutes.
“We went out there with great intensity right from the start,” Fromme said. “All the seniors went out there and really stuck it to them. We really played well.”
Ludlowe (12-3-1) will head into the FCIAC playoffs on the heels of one of the most successful regular seasons in school history. Not only did the Falcons earn their first-ever appearance in the FCIAC playoffs, but will host an FCIAC quarterfinal game when they meet No. 6 Stamford Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Taft Field.
“It’s been a nice run,” O’Hara said. “When it was four teams in the playoffs, we were always that fifth or sixth team and over the last couple of years we always seem to be in the eighth or ninth spot. This is our first taste of the playoffs and we’re getting a home game. This is also the first time we’ve had a home game in the LL playoffs. Hopefully we can get two of those. So there were a lot of firsts this year.”
Norwalk, which entered the game as the seventh seed, fought hard to get back into a game in had no right being in, getting goals from Sergio Mandujano off a pass from center midfielder Jose Canahui with 23:24 left in the first half and junior Patrick Barrantes on a great shot from the right side in the 13th minute of the second to pull the Bears to within 3-2.
Norwalk had a chance to pull even in the final seconds as Canahui set up senior Jon Ceja for a 1-on-1 chance on the right side. But Ludlowe goalie Fred Meagher, forced to make only one other save all night, stopped Ceja with strong positioning and the Falcons held on.
“We knew Norwalk was going to come out strong because they needed the game to get into the playoffs,” Fromme said. “We knew we needed to match that right from the beginning and I think we did that. We played really well.”
Should Norwalk reach the playoffs, O’Hara sees the Bears as a scary seventh or eighth seed.
“Of course. They’re Norwalk,” O’Hara said. “They were really fighting for that FCIAC spot. I think they’re going to get in. They really fought, and for them to come back down 3-0, it’s a credit to them. They’re the defending champs, and in this game, anything’s possible.”
Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton just hopes his team doesn’t come out in the playoffs like it did against the Falcons, allowing three goals on Ludlowe’s first six shots over the first 15 minutes. The Falcons finished with a 19-4 advantage in shots on the night.
“Defensively we were a nightmare to start the game,” Laughton said. “Our back four can’t come out like that and expect to win games. I’m happy with the way they fought, but I’m disappointed with the way we started. We dug ourselves that hole. It was our own doing.”
Ludlowe 3, Norwalk 2
Goals: N-Sergio Mandujano, Patrick Barrantes; L-Jason Fromme 2, Eric Winjum. Assists: N-Jose Canahui; L-Winjum, Erik Stahle, Jordan Layne. Shots: Ludlowe 19, Norwalk 4. Corner kicks: Norwalk 3, Ludlowe 3. Saves: N-Tyler Dalton 7; L-Fred Meagher 2.
Records: Norwalk 7-6-3; L-12-3-1.