WOODBURY >> Northwestern’s boys soccer team won the first half at Nonnewaug. The Chiefs were back late to win the second.
A 2-2 tie turned final through 10 minutes of scoreless overtime.
Nonnewaug (9-1-1), a game behind Lewis Mills (10-0-1) in the Berkshire league standings, took it to the third-place Highlanders 3-0 in the second game on their schedule.
“That was the best we’ve played all season,” said Chiefs Coach Toby Denman.
Tuesday, at Nonnewaug, Northwestern turned the tables in the first half.
“We picked up our intensity,” said senior Evan Dolecki.
The Highlanders looked bigger and faster at midfield; they got the better shots up front; and Northwestern defenders seemed to have at least a double team on the ball at all times.
Midway through the half, the score was still 0-0 thanks to scrambling saves by Nonnewaug sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Rescsanki (7 saves) and his defense.
Northwestern coach Andy Campbell sent in five rested players off his bench, telling them, “Play hard. This is our only advantage – depth.”
Five minutes later, intensity and depth paid off. In a textbook series of touches, the ball came in to Connor LaBreck 20 yards right of the Nonnewaug goal.
LaBreck one-touched it into the penalty box. Dolecki fired from five yards out.
Three minutes later, Steven Lee sent a ball to Garrett Healey at the penalty line. Healey wheeled on it for a 2-0 Highlander advantage, 11 minutes left in the first half.
“We go through spurts where we just don’t play defense,” said Denman. “We were down 2-0 at Wamogo at the half.
The Warriors are struggling through a 3-7 season. Nonnewaug was back with six second-half goals.
This was a different case.
“You put in a first-half stinker against Northwestern, you dig a big hole,” said Denman. “They’re big, deep and talented.”
With a 2-0 lead, Highlander intensity turned down a notch in the early moments of the second half; the Chiefs picked it up.
Nonnewaug sophomore Nate Firlings clanged a shot off the inside of the far post eight minutes in.
Northwestern’s Winter Thorne-Kaneulis was back with a shot nipping the top of the Nonnewaug crossbar two minutes later.
Twenty minutes into the half, Coach Campbell sent seven subs in. If depth was his advantage, here it was.
“We played 20 guys today,” he said.
The fresh Highlander legs helped Northwestern dominate for the next few minutes.
Twenty-six minutes in, defender Sam Hester turned a ball off Nonnewaug star Jack Kingdon’s foot.
The Highlanders had to hold on just 14 minutes more for the upset.
Or would it be an upset? Two weeks ago, Northwestern held Mills to a 0-0 tie.
Seconds after Hester turned the ball, Nonnewaug’s Kingdon, with 19 goals before Tuesday, stepped in with the shot of the day, maybe the season.
Firlings crossed a pass in front of the Northwestern goal. Kingdon bicycle kicked the ball over his head into the net, 2-1.
“I’ve been trying four years to get one,” said the Chiefs’ star, heading for a post-graduate season next year. “I hit the crossbar with one at Shepaug last year.”
“That was an amazing goal,” said Northwestern’s Healey.
Still, it would have been just that – an amazing goal in a loss – if Kingdon hadn’t found the right spot at the right time seven minutes from the end of regulation.
From 40 yards out, Nonnewaug’s Luke Molinaro sent a free kick into the Highlander box. Kingdon got a head on it, into the goal, 2-2.
“It was the Jack Kingdon show,” said Campbell. “Nonnewaug can play better than this, but the bottom line is, we got it taken away from us.”
“It was a pretty important comeback to still have something to play for,” said Denman.
Mills beat the Chiefs 4-2 in the first meeting. If Nonnewaug gets past Terryville Friday, a win at Mills next Tuesday evening could mean a BL Championship tie.
Northwestern might also have a say in it. The Highlanders host Wamogo Friday. They’re back in Burlington October 27.
Northwestern 2, Nonnewaug 2 (OT)
At Nonnewaug High School
Northwestern 2 0 0 0 – 2
Nonnewaug 0 2 0 0 – 2
Goals: NW – Evan Dolecki; Garrett Healey. N – Jack Kingdon 2. Assists: NW – Connor LaBreck; Steven Lee. N – Nate Firlings; Luke Molinaro. Shots: 18-15 Nonnewaug. Saves: NW – Cody D’Anolfo 6. N – Ryan Rescsanski 7.
Records: Northwestern 7-2-2; Nonnewaug 9-1-1.