WATERBURY –The core group for the Morgan boys soccer team has been together for three seasons. They made three straight trips to the Shoreline Conference tournament finals.
But the group’s maiden voyage to Saturday’s Class S state championship game was a special one and, in their last game together, they didn’t disappoint.
Game MVP Juan Avila scored twice in the second half within a 2-minute span to put the game away for No. 5 seed Morgan, a 4-0 winner over No. 3 Somers at Snyder Field.
“I think we showed what a Shoreline team actually is, a state champion,” Avila said. “There were a lot of people here. They have a lot of influence on the game. Our energy was up there. We never stopped running because they kept cheering.”
It’s the school’s second state championship, but first since 1964 – a span of 53 years in between appearances.
“For me it’s bittersweet, the seniors, this core of the team has been with me for three years. That never happens in high school,” Morgan coach Ross DeMay said. “We lost three players in three years total. The journey is really meaningful. I’m really proud they could finish it off.”
Said senior goalkeeper Anes Gadun: “Our community was with us every step, every game in the rain, in the wind and in the cold.”
Avila, one of that core group of seniors, scored twice in less than 2 minutes to break open what was a 1-0 advantage for Morgan (18-3-2). The first came in the 54th minute as Avila slipped it past Somers goalkeeper Broderick Rheault.
— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) November 18, 2017
The second Avila first beat a one-on-one matchup, then Rheault to put the Huskies up 3-0 with 23:52 left.
“They only single-marked him rather than double-marked like most teams,” DeMay said. “We scrimmaged them in the preseason and scouted them, so we knew what worked against them. We had to play wide, build the ball (out of the back), get them tired and that would open up more lanes for us.”
Somers coach Rick Kelley replaced Rheault with Dimitri Sanchez after Avila’s second goal, but it was to no avail. Zachary Tuccitto scored the final goal for Morgan with 15:44 remaining.
It was Rheault who kept the Spartans (16-4) in the first half with eight saves on Morgan’s nine shot attempts. Only Tyler Newfield broke through, scoring midway through the first half.
Five minutes later, Jacob Regulbuto, Somers’ leading scorer with 33 goals, suffered a pulled hamstring with 15:16 left, according to Kelley. He didn’t return until there were 5 minutes left, with the outcome already decided.
“Not having him up top definitely made an impact,” Kelley said.
Somers had won or shared four titles in a six-year stretch (2010-15). That included a win over Morgan in the 2015 Class S quarterfinals, when these current Husky seniors were sophomores.
“Morgan had more heart today. They were the hardest-working team we’ve played all season,” Kelley said. “WWe came out strong and then just fizzled. It was very frustrating to see that decline and not get get right back into the game like we usually do. … We averaged almost three goals a game. I’m shocked we didn’t get a goal today. That was very surprising. Their defense played tough.”