SOUTHINGTON >> Nearly five years to the day, Bridgeport Central has eliminated Southington from the Class LL boys soccer tournament. On Novemeber 11, 2010, the 26th-seeded Hilltoppers beat the 23rd-seeded Blue Knights 3-1.
Southington then went on a four-year state tournament drought before qualifying this season. But the Knights ran into Central, once again.
On Thursday at a cold and rainy Fontana Field, freshman Franz Muhaj scored twice for the 28th-seeded Hilltoppers to put away the 12th-seeded Blue Knights, 4-0 and advance to their first Class LL quarterfinal since that 2010 season.
“Once they get the beginning jitters done, they know how to play the game,” Bridgeport Central coach Jay Silverman said. “They’re hungry.”
In its first two state tournament games, Central has traveled roughly 203.2 miles round trip and come away with two shutout wins. The first was a 2-0 result at East Hartford on Monday.
“It doesn’t matter for us if we play home or away,” Muhaj said. “We always give 100 percent. We always try our best even if we’re not home and it doesn’t matter where we’re going. Even if we have to travel a long way, we try our best every time.”
Thursday it may have taken a few minutes to get warmed up, but once they did, the Hilltoppers were off and running.
The first goal came with 15:07 left in the first half when Ryheim Hinds collected a rebound in front of the Southington net and redirected it over the top of goalie Evan Daddona for the first tally.
About five minutes later Victor Motta did nearly the same thing.
After a Bridgeport Central shot hit the post, the sophomore turned the ricochet right around giving the visitors a 2-0 lead and Motta a celebratory front flip.
“The first 15 minutes of the game we started dribbling and stuff,” Muhaj said. “But then we started passing the ball and that’s how we play. That’s what coach told us, if we pass the ball that way the goals will come and they did.”
To start the second half the Blue Knights looked like they had the energy to get back in the game.
Erik Schneider missed a diving header in what was probably the best chance for the home team all day.
“We created some decent opportunities early,” Southington coach Dave Yanosy said. “Weren’t able to cash in on one of them and literally as we had the guys standing here to go to a 3-4-3 they scored the third one which was obviously the back-breaker right before we were about to change our formation.”
That goal came from Muhaj who was just getting started.
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“Franz, he’s only a freshman,” Silverman said. “Franz comes up big when we need him, he knows what to do.”
His first goal came off a corner kick in which he knocked in the second chance and five minutes later he used his head to score another putting away the Blue Knights and booking another long bus ride — about 58 miles — to West Hartford on Saturday to play Hall.
“I just see a lot of guys with a lot of heart,” Silverman said. “They pulled all my hair out during the season and they know when to put it together.”