MIDDLETOWN >> Jim and Tommy Leahy went out winners.
Jim is the head coach of Tolland’s boys soccer team and son Tommy, a senior, starts for the Eagles. Saturday morning their team beat Bacon Academy 2-1 to win the CIAC Class M state championship in front of 1,000 paid spectators at Rosek-Skubel Stadium at Middletown High School.
“I’m retiring and to go out with my son with a state championship, well, you can’t ask anything much better than that,” said dad, Jim. “We want to be good every year. We played a great game last year and lost and the kids have thought about getting back here all year.
“We didn’t start the season real well, so we had an attitude-adjustment meeting and since then we’ve played pretty well.”
Things did not start well for No. 4-seeded Tolland this day either, as No. 3 Bacon Academy dominated play early on.
“For a while it looked like they were the ones who had been here before and we were new to all of this,” said Leahy. “A lot of that had to do with their speed. I’m not sure we were ready for quite that much speed.
“But once we got a goal, we were OK.”
Tolland got that goal from Nick Tantillo with 8:41 left in the first half. The Eagles kept the 1-0 lead through the half, but it disappeared in a heartbeat in the second half.
Bacon Academy (17-2-2) tied it when Sam Pipicelli scored just 35 seconds into the half. Tolland had a great opportunity almost immediately after the tying goal as a shot bounced off the crossbar just over the net. But the match then settled into a defensive struggle that was played in the middle of the field. Neither team had many good scoring opportunities until late.
With 6:46 left to play in regulation, Tolland’s Mike Zimmerman scored the game-winner, a rocket from 20 yards out on which keeper Nick Wall had no chance.
Tolland (18-2-1) had seven shots to Bacon’s four and both keepers — Wall and Tolland’s Kyle Boutot — had two saves apiece.
“The goal Kyle gave up was maybe the softest goal he’s given up all year,” Leahy said. “He’s the best and he’s great in the clutch.”
Leahy said he’s leaving with no regrets.
“We have built a program here,” he said. “The next coach will have talent to work with and should have a team that has a chance to be successful for years. It’s what we wanted to establish and I think we have done that.”
Boys Class M
Tolland 2, Bacon Academy 1
Tolland 1 1 — 2
Bacon Academy 0 1 — 1
Goals: (T) Nick Tantillo; (B) Sam Pipicelli: (T) Mike Zimmerman.
Shots: Tolland 7, Bacon 4
Saves: (T) Kyle Boutot 2; (B) Nick Wall 2.
Records: Tolland 18-2-1; Bacon Academy