— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) November 15, 2017
WEST HAVEN — It came down to penalty kicks to decide which Shoreline Conference school would be represented in Saturday’s Class S state boys soccer championship game.
And it came down to the final penalty kick to see if a winner would be decided, or another round of kicks would be needed Tuesday night at Ken Strong Stadium.
It wasn’t necessary.
Jack O’Sullivan knocked his into the bottom left corner of the net to give No. 5 seed Morgan the 3-2 edge in PKs, advancing the Huskies past top-seeded Old Saybrook. The two teams tied at 1 through regulation and a pair of 10-minute overtime sessions.
“I tried to tune everything out and focus in what I had to get done. I didn’t worry about missing it or making it,” O’Sullivan said. “As soon as I made it, I ran to my friends in the crowd and I was hugging people. I was so excited to be the person that won the game.”
Said Morgan coach Ross DeMay: “He’s the one who has been our rock on the defense, he’s the one who seems to come up big under pressure most times. I knew that when he got to it, being fifth, no matter what happened, he would be able to rise above it.”
This will be the first time the Huskies (17-3-2) have played in a state final since 1964. Morgan will face No. 3 Somers at a site and time to be determined.
“It will be both exciting and nerve-wracking,” Morgan goalkeeper Anes Gadun said.
It also denied a chance for the Rams (18-2) to return to the S final for the second straight season.
“It is what it is. I think we are a better team, but we came up short today,” Old Saybrook coach Sam Barnes said. “These kids have been together for years. Fifteen freshman came in four years ago and 15 I’ve still got today. A tight group of kids, it’s the end of their high school career. It would’ve been nice to win something.”
Morgan handed Old Saybrook its only other loss in the Shoreline tournament semifinals en route to a league co-championship with Haddam-Killingworth..
Old Saybrook looked to have taken the lead in the 88th minute when Padraig Ryan knocked one towards Gadun. He saved it, but the referees had to huddle to determine whether the ball had crossed the goal line. They determined it had not.
“My shoulder was on the line but the ball was in front (of the line). The way it works, as long as the full ball has not passed the line, it’s not a goal,” Gadun said.
Said Barnes: “My player said it was in. The ref said it didn’t go in.”
Zachary Tuccitto made the first penalty kick for Morgan and Anthony Karg tied it for Old Saybrook. After Morgan’s Tyler Newfield missed wide, Gadun made the first of his two PK saves, diving to his left to snare Austin Hilger’s shot.
“That was all reading (the shooters). The cold (weather), it’s all mental, I blank it all out, focus on the kick, focus on the goal and try and make a save,” Gadun said.
Then Carter Skidmore made Morgan’s second kick. Gadun saved another kick, allowing Morgan forward Juan Avila an opportunity to win it. But Old Saybrook keeper Jonah Nucci made a diving save on Avila’s attempt.
Justin Phillips tied it back up for Saybrook, setting the stage for O’Sullivan’s heroics.
Karg broke the scoreless tie for Old Saybrook with 11:36 left in regulation. Avila got the equalizer with 7:14 left.