NEW BRITAIN — With two semifinal appearances in the last three years, the No. 2 seed Lewis Mills’ boys soccer team (19-0-1) celebrated its breakthrough to the finals with a 3-2 Class M win over No. 5 Suffield (16-4) Saturday morning at New Britain’s Willow Brook Park.
Beginning with a Dylan McCall goal three minutes into a back-and-forth game, energy surged to the team with the latest goal until McCall’s winner with 10 seconds left lit a blast that should supply the Spartans and their fans for the entire winter.
“Welcome to the club,” beamed Mills’ coach, Ben Kulas, who played on the Spartans’ last boys soccer championship team 20 years ago.
Suffield, winners of three straight Class M titles from 2011 through 2013, put the outcome in doubt with a first-half penalty kick by Mike McFarlane (a trip in the box) and a go-ahead strike by Dylan Carzello just two minutes into the second half.
But midway through the period, McFarlane, a central cog in the Wildcats machine, went to the bench with a yellow card.
A minute later, tournament MVP John Mudgett scored the tying goal on a cross to the far post from Brady Fox.
“You just work with what you have,” said Mudgett, clutching the championship plaque.
“That yellow card changed the momentum,” said Fox, looking at a more inviting Wildcat defense in McFarlane’s absence.
“We lost a little control after their penalty kick, but we just push through every challenge we get,” said Nick Lutrzykowski, whose first corner kick zipped through Suffield keeper Henry Cutler’s upraised hands for McCall’s first goal.
When Mudgett’s goal tied the score 2-2 with 16 minutes left to play, the power in an ultra-physical game switched back to the Spartans.
Cutler just made it to another Lutrzykowski corner kick in the 27th minute, came way off his line for a field kick stopping a Mills charge in the 29th and fielded a ball bobbed off several heads in the box in the 30th.
But the Wildcats, who flattened No. 1 Granby 4-1 in a semifinal Tuesday, don’t give up either.
McFarlane sent a direct kick wide left with seven minutes to go. Spartan keeper Jackson Lord fielded a ball in close with three minutes left.
When Mills’ McCall sent a slow roller to Cutler with just two minutes left, the game of equals seemed headed for 30 minutes of overtime.
Then the Spartans harnessed the same lightning play that beat Ellington in the semis.
With the final minute ticking off, a series of quick touch passes rocketed Mills downfield toward a Wildcat defense suddenly showing uncharacteristic space.
Fox crossed the ball to the middle of the keeper’s box. McCall, charging in, struck a rifle shot into the net.
“I was just thinking, ‘I have to get my shot off,’” he said.
“It hasn’t sunk in, and who knows if it ever will,” said Kulas, bundling his wife Courtney and newborn son Alexander for the celebration of one of the biggest weeks of their lives.
LEWIS MILLS 3, SUFFIELD 2
At Willow Brook Park, New Britain
Suffield 1 1 — 2
Lewis Mills 1 2 — 3
Goals: S — Mike McFarlane (PK); Dylan Carzello. LM — Dylan McCall 2; John Mudgett. Assists: S — Jeremy Watch. LM — Nick Lutrzykowski; Brady Fox 2. Shots: 10-8 Lewis Mills. Saves: S — Henry Cutler 6. LM — Jackson Lord 5.
Records: Suffield 16-4; Lewis Mills 19-0-1.