No. 13 Litchfield came from behind for a 4-3 win over No. 20 Windsor Locks in the CIAC Boys Soccer Tournament first round Tuesday afternoon at Litchfield’s Plum Hill Field.
The win was a tale of two halves, a tale of speed vs. size, and, to hear the Cowboys tell it, a tale of non-Litchfield soccer vs. Litchfield soccer.
The first half was mostly Windsor Locks speed and, perhaps, non-Litchfield soccer.
Two minutes into the game, junior Aly Mohammed showed off the Raider speed, dribbling around and between big Cowboy defenders caught flat-footed, before reaching the Litchfield goal-mouth and popping it in for the first score.
Windsor Locks pressed its advantage with another full-throttle attack. Litchfield goalkeeper Nick Andro deflected the shot.
Ten minutes in, Raider Glenn Smith picked the ball back from a Litchfield defender 10 yards from the Cowboy goal, wheeled and fired the second Windsor Locks goal.
The Cowboys seemed overmatched and overwhelmed.
But change was in the wind (and the rain).
“After their second goal, we got together and said we had to start playing Litchfield soccer,” said senior Chris Parsons.
“That wasn’t who we are,” added Brandon Hookstadt, another Cowboy senior.
“We realized this could be our last game,” said Cal McKenna, one more in the senior-laden Litchfield team. “We started stepping up big and pressing.”
The field leveled out.
Midway through the half, the Cowboys lined up for a set piece off a corner kick from Griffen McIntyre. The ball caromed around the penalty box. McKenna, a big, athletic back, found the handle, pumping it in, 2-1.
“I thought we were playing better after our first goal,” said Litchfield coach Rob Andrulis.
Nevertheless, Windsor Locks speed caught the Cowboys again seven minutes before the half.
Sophomore Bryce Dearborn broke free on the right wing. Mohammed hit him with a pass. Dearborn rifled in a goal, 3-1.
Still, the Cowboys pressed.
Three minutes later, freshman Carson Mello banged a shot off Locks keeper Ryan Rich into the goal, 3-2.
“Litchfield played with heart,” said Windsor Locks coach Dan Eckert.
Cowboy heart and size took over the field in the second half.
Eight minutes into the period, Windsor Locks keeper Rich fielded a strong header at the goal line off another Cowboy corner kick. Two minutes later, two more in succession.
“Their set pieces are really strong,” said Coach Eckert.
But the score didn’t change. With 20 minutes left in the game, Litchfield still trailed 3-2.
Coach Andrulis pushed one of his backs forward into a 3-5-3 formation.
“We need another goal,” he said.
Eight minutes from the end of regulation, the Cowboys got it on yet another corner kick from McIntyre.
McKenna soared above a crowd in the box, heading it home, 3-3.
“Set pieces have worked for us all year,” Coach Andrulis said. “(McKenna) has six or seven goals on them.”
The score suggested overtime; Litchfield’s extra man up front tilted the field again.
With two minutes left, Hookstadt threw into the box. Parsons bulled the ball through a crowd into the goal, 4-3.
The Raiders had one more dangerous shot left. As the timekeeper started counting the final 10 seconds, referees stopped the clock for a direct kick on a Cowboy foul 30 yards on the right flat.
Raider Mohammed kicked it to the goal. Litchfield keeper Andro caught it, fell to the ground and lay there through the final 10-second count.
The Cowboys, 10-5-2, host No. 29 Coginchaug, 7-9-1, Thursday at 2 p.m. for Round Two.
The Blue Devils beat No. 4 Two Rivers 13-0 Tuesday.
No. 13 Litchfield 4, No. 20 Windsor Locks 3
At Plum Hill Field, Litchfield
Windsor Locks 3 0 – 3
Litchfield 2 2 – 4
Goals: WL – Aly Mohammed; Glenn Smith; Bryce Dearborn. L – Cal McKenna 2; Carson Mello; Chris Parsons. Assists: WL – Mohammed. L – Griffen McIntyre. Shots: 13-6 Litchfield. Saves: WL – Ryan Rich 6. L – Nick Andro.
Records: Windsor Locks 7-8-2; Litchfield 10-5-2.