BURLINGTON >> Two Berkshire League heavyweights, Lewis Mills and Nonnewaug, pummelled each other to a 1-1 boys soccer tie Tuesday afternoon at Lewis Mills High School.
Bodies strewn in front of the Nonnewaug goal mouth a minute before the end of the second half of overtime formed a nice visual summary for a game in which refs handed out three yellow cards (two players, one coach) in the midst of an all-out physical struggle.
“It was good because I’m faster than some of the big guys; bad when I went up for a header,” said Nonnewaug junior Jack Kingdon, one of the slighter guys, physically, on a field full of big, sturdy guys.
Kingdon overcame the obstacles five minutes into the second half for the game’s first score, on – you guessed it – a header in front of the net on a corner kick from Christian Mancini.
“It wasn’t our type of game,” said Lewis Mills senior Ryan Finley, who scored the equalizer 20 minutes later on a shot from just outside the box off a pass from Freddy Marinelli.
“We should have played to the feet more,” Finley said. “Instead we played it over the top.”
“The first half was a disaster in terms of what we’ve been working on,” said Mills coach Ben Kulas.
The half might have been a shock to both teams (2-0-1) after rolling to a combined 19-0 victory total over their first two opponents.
The effort earned a No. 5 (Mills) and No. 6 (Nonnewaug) ranking among Class M and S schools in this week’s state coaches’ poll.
“Last year, we had to play over our heads against Mills (three losses to a Spartan team that went to the Class M semifinals),” said Nonnewaug coach Toby Denman. “This year, we don’t.”
Quality was as even as the score. Styles were different.
“I think we had it,” said Nonnewaug’s Mancini. “They out-possessed us, but I didn’t think they had the better work effort.”
“I think we should have played stronger,” said Mills’ Marinelli. “It shows how much harder we have to work.”
The styles balanced out in the first half.
Keeping it in Nonnewaug territory for most of the first 10 minutes, the Spartans out-shot Nonnewaug 9-4 for the period.
Still, many of the shots came long range; when Nonnewaug countered, the pressure was just as stiff for the Spartans.
Both senior goalkeepers – Nonnewaug’s Nate Israel and Mills’ Alex Daigle – are huge obstacles in the goal.
“The second half was better, but we made individual mistakes,” said Coach Kulas.
The Spartans dominated early again, Marinelli got close on a nice lead before his shot was deflected from 10 yards.
Mills held on for five minutes.
Then the Chiefs countered, ending in a corner kick.
Mancini put it in the box from the right corner. Kingdon, a junior, soared five yards from the left post, heading an unstoppable carom into the goal.
“When we were down 1-0, we stopped playing to feet,” said Kulas. “We’re young.”
In the next two minutes, Finley put a shot on top of the net; Kingdon put one over.
“You’re 40 yards out,” hollered Kulas at a long shot in the 12th minute. “Better decisions!”
Twenty-five minutes into the second half, Finley got his break.
“I flicked it in to Freddy (Marinelli). He laid it off to me (just outside the keeper’s box). It was a bad hit, but it rolled under (Israel’s) arms into the corner of the net,” narrated Finley.
The third yellow card rolled out 10 minutes later when a goal seemed as unlikely as a miracle.
In two five minute halves of the overtime, Mills had a shot over the net in the first period, a deflection by the post in the second, then the golden opportunity ending in chaos.
The ball lay on the ground in the box for seconds as players tried for it, got knocked off and fell. A Nonnewaug defender finally cleared it, only to see it come back and get close again.
“We hit the wall in overtime,” said Coach Denman. “I think they’re a little deeper than we are. We did very well (to contain them) on defense.”
“Now we just have to take care of business Friday against Northwestern (3-0),” said Kulas. “Right now, it’s a three-way race.”
Nonnewaug 1, Lewis Mills 1 (OT)
At Lewis Mills High School
Nonnewaug 0 1 0 0-1
Lewis Mills 0 1 0 0-1
Goals: N-Jack Kingdon. LM-Ryan Finley. Assists: N-Christian Mancini. LM-Freddy Marinelli. Shots: 17-11 Mills. Saves: N-Nate Israel 8. LM-Alex Daigle 7.
Records: Nonnewaug 2-0-1; Lewis Mills 2-0-1.