NEW BRITAIN >> Shelton boys soccer coach Joe D’Auria was in the midst of planning a trip to the Bahamas. His assistant coach was away in Vermont.
But both men were back at practice with the Gaels on Friday, just hours after finding out Shelton was now playing for its first state championship in school history.
So the seventh-seeded Gaels made the trek to Willow Brook Park Saturday afternoon. For awhile, they hung with fourth-seeded Farmington. Then Blake Rutenberg scored twice in a 3-minute span. That’s all Farmington needed to beat Shelton 3-0 for the Class LL crown.
“The mentality of finding out yesterday, getting the guys ready, have to switch gears, planning a weekend-of-nothing to this is the opposite side of the spectrum,” D’Auria said.
Farmington (18-2-1), which won its 12th state championship, was almost like a co-star in the drama that built up Friday morning. Shelton had informed the CIAC on Thursday night about the possibility of Danbury, the team that had eliminated Shelton in the semifinals Tuesday night, using an academically ineligible player.
CIAC found that to be the case and Danbury forfeited the win. Although the ineligible player had played in all three previous tournament wins, CIAC bylaws stated that the team that most recently loss to Danbury gets to move on.
“It was weird, in fact almost like starting all over,” D’Auria said. “The balls were put away, the pinnies were put away, the cones were put away, everything was put away.”
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But once the Indians took the stage Saturday, they showed why they will likely be the No. 1 team in the final state coaches L-LL poll released this week. The team allowed just three goals all year, pitching 20 shutouts.
That included all five games in the LL tournament. Shelton (19-4-1), the third team from the Southern Connecticut Conference to fall to Farmington in the tournament, was able to muster just two shot attempts and Farmington keeper Jordan Sicklick didn’t make his first – and only – save until the midway point of the second half.
“Nothing changed for us. We already booked into this game last Tuesday so we knew we were going to play at 2 o’clock today at this field last Tuesday,” said Farmington coach Steve Waters, who won his ninth title. “The opponent really didn’t matter at that point. We prepared for the way we would have for any opponent at that point.”
Making the potential comeback that much harder was senior Mikey Sciortino, Shelton’s top player, picking up a red card 9 minutes into the second half for knocking Sicklick off his feet. Sciortino had received his first yellow card of the season, according to D’Auria, earlier in the game.
“You’re not just a man down. I find out (Sunday) if he’s an All-American. He’s got 27 goals, He’s the best player on the field and I don’t care what those guys have,” D’Auria said. “You throw him out of the game, you’re done. It’s like Barcelona. They have (Lionel) Messi. You go without Messi, that’s the X factor against every team. He’s our X factor.”
To Shelton’s credit, despite playing a man down, the team kept Farmington off the scoreboard until Nate Hughes banged one in with 16 seconds left.
“We had long sequences where we controlled the game,” Waters said. “So we controlled our attacking third and that’s the team that’s going to win it, who controls their attacking third.”
Alec Maccarone assisted on both of Rutenberg’s goals. Isaac Garcia made six saves in the second half for Shelton.
“Some could say, ‘Hey, if you had three more days of preparation would the result be different? I don’t think (so),” D’Auria said.