PORTLAND >> Old Saybrook has had plenty of regular-season success in the Shoreline Conference for boys soccer, a contender for the league crown virtually every season.
But despite playing for the title numerous times, the Rams have come up short each time since 1964.
Finally, on Friday night, Old Saybrook broke through. Ashton Reina’s header midway through the second half was the difference for top-seeded Old Saybrook in a 2-1 victory over No. 6 seed Morgan at Portland High.
“I’ve been to the finals a lot, but never won it,” said Old Saybrook coach Sam Barnes, who won his 200th game this season. “I’ve been coaching 21 years and been to the finals so many times. Tonight was meant to be. Down a goal, to come from behind, we did a fantastic job.”
The Huskies (13-5-1) certainly didn’t make it easy on the Rams (16-0-2). Morgan took advantage of the Shoreline’s decision to expand from four playoff teams to six, winning two road games, including a win over defending champion Old Lyme, to reach Friday’s final.
Then Juan Avila made good on Morgan’s first shot on goal, breaking the scoreless tie with 7:13 left before halftime.
The equalizer for Old Saybrook came with 53 seconds left in the first half, Justin Phillips from Anthony Karg.
“It was key (the tying goal). They would have parked the bus (in front of their net) in the second half and it would have been a battle,” Barnes said. “Yes, that was huge.”
Said Morgan coach Ross DeMay, a former assistant under Barnes: “I don’t think it mattered for us. We were still fighting going forward. It pumped them up before half.”
The Huskies had some second-half scoring opportunities as the game became chippy on both sides. The final outcome left Husky players on the field in despair long after the game ended, the second straight year Morgan fell in the final.
“All I can ask of them is that they leave it on the field,” DeMay said.
As for the Rams, the only unbeaten team in the Class S state tournament field, they have some time to celebrate their first Shoreline crown in 52 years. They have a first-round bye and don’t open play until Thursday at home.
Old Saybrook 2, Morgan 1
Morgan 1 0 – 1
Old Saybrook 1 1 – 2
First half—O: Juan Avila (Calvin Jackson) 32:47; OS: Justin Phillips (Anthony Karg) 39:07; Second half—S: Ashton Reina 60:00;
Shots—O: 7; OS: 18;
Saves—O: Anes Gadun 10; OS: Jonah Nucci 1;
Records—Morgan 13-5-1; Old Saybrook 16-0-2