Ludlowe loses in final minute in CIAC tournament
As Ludlowe boys soccer coach Kevin O'Hara slowly paced back and forth in front of his team's bench, trying to process what had just happened, every one of his players sat silently on the ground, tears welling in their eyes.
What had happened was the unthinkable.
Glastonbury, the 15th seed -- but the defending Class LL co-state champion -- scored a tie-breaking goal with 1:01 to play in regulation to stun the No. 2 seeded Falcons 2-1 and end their 19-game unbeaten streak Thursday night at Taft Field.
Glastonbury sophomore Freddy Clark got control of the ball near midfield with just two Falcons defenders to beat. He sprinted by both and sent a low liner that got past Ludlowe goalkeeper Mickey Petrini, setting off a wild celebration on the Tomahawks bench and sending the Ludlowe players into shock.
"We got caught on a corner (kick)," said O'Hara. "And we had two guys back and credit to them, they quickly countered on us."
Clark scored both goals for Glastonbury (12-5-2), who had lost three of its last five games coming in before defeating Newtown in the CIAC's opening round on Monday. Clark's first goal, at the 15 minute mark, was also a thing of beauty, getting control in the box and sending a back kick flip over Petrini's head to tie the game at 1-1.
That goal countered Rich Belucci's header at the seven minute mark that got Ludlowe on the board. Despite controlling the possession for nearly the entire game, that was the only score the Falcons would get.
"We've faced so much this year, with guys hurt and out for the year," said Tomahawks head coach Mark Landers. "I lost three players for the season and coming in, I knew we needed a break. We needed something to break for us because that's one heck of a team over there. This was a great win for us, for sure."
Ludlowe had several chances in the second half to take the lead, the best one coming with just under 15 minutes left when Bellucci got control of a ball and fired a bullet from 10 yards out, only to have Glastonbury's keeper, Dan Jennings, punch it away. In fact, that was the first of three huge chances by the Falcons -- both Mike McArdle and Bellucci just missed headers with 3:50 and 2:25 left, respectively -- setting the stage for a final Ludlowe corner that quickly turned into a footrace ... and then a nightmare.
"We noticed on the corner that they (Ludlowe) were putting everyone in there (in the box) and I probably would have done the same thing," Landers said. "You go for it at that time and one of our guys got a clear, we won the ball and it was just a footrace and Freddy was ready to rock. He was going to go right at the goal and I was just praying that he would finish."
One step further. That was the mission for Ludlowe this season. Coming off a 12-win campaign -- the most wins since the combined Fairfield High School split apart in 2003 -- all O'Hara wanted his Falcons team to do was to win a FCIAC tournament game (they lost in the first round last year) and then get past the second round of the state tournament (they lost in that round last year).
They achieved one goal, winning the FCIAC title, but this state tournament loss will hurt for a long time.
"It's a tough way to end," O'Hara said. "We were knocking on the door so many times, unfortunately, you give up one mistake like that and it means the game. We had an incredible year. We're 16-1-3. It hurts right now and it's going to hurt for a while, but when we look back at the season we've had, we'll know that it was an incredible run."