TORRINGTON — Coginchaug junior Riley Carey scored the game’s only goal as the Devils beat Northwestern 1-0 on Tuesday in a Class M boys first-round game at the Robert H. Frost Sports Complex at Torrington High School.
In a physical game that eight-seeded Northwestern expected to win handily, No. 25 Coginchaug stymied the Highlanders early with offside traps, then used its quick defense.
“It was a team effort,” Cochinchaug coach Matt Thompson said. “We worked hard in the last few days on getting our defense behind the ball so the through lanes are cut off.”
“We dominate the middle, but we just don’t shoot enough,” Northwestern coach Andy Campbell said. “We work on it in practice, but we’ve won some games where we only take four shots.”
Northwestern, postponed a day due to Monday’s rain, elected to play on Torrington’s faster turf field while its girls team played on Northwestern’s grass.
“Our home field is turf, but we’re slow,” Thompson said.
For the first 10 minutes, the Devils negated any speed advantage Northwestern might have with their traps as the Highlanders tried to run through on lead passes.
“We step when we need to, but it might burn us,” Thompson said.
Using long clearing passes, Coginchaug had the game’s first shot in the 10th minute off its first corner kick.
“They did a good job getting corners, with nice set pieces,” Campbell said.
Midway through the half, on just the second Northwestern shot, Highlander Jackson Dropick gave Coginchaug keeper Kyle Roberts his first real test with a straight-on blast from 20 yards out.
Roberts, playing a field position all season, found himself in the goal after Coginchaug’s first two goalies went down in succession in the Devil’s final regular-season game, then in the Shoreline Conference tournament’s first game.
Roberts (three saves) bounced Dropick’s shot off his chest, then fell on it for the save.
“It worked out,” he said with a grin.
Four minutes later, Carey held the ball in Northwestern’s right corner, five yards off the end line for an agonizing 15 seconds while a Highlander defender contained him, expecting his teammates to defend an impending cross to the box.
“I tried to jig him out,” Carey said. “Then I just figured, ‘Why not?’”
Carey lofted a shot, which may or may not have been intended as a cross. Either way, it hit the inside of the far post and caromed in for an unstoppable goal.
With Carey dropping back to help in a 5-4-1 defensive alignment for the rest of the game, Northwestern had two golden second-half chances for the equalizer.
Eighteen minutes in, the ball rattled in front of Smith on the Coginchaug goal line, then went in while the referee called Northwestern offsides.
With 14 minutes left, Highlander Tom Mierzwa ripped a ball that might have been a classic equalizer. His shot, like Carey’s in the first half, hit the far post…then bounced out of bounds.
“That’s one heck of a team. Today, they just couldn’t finish,” Thompson said.
Coginchaug plays its second-round game this afternoon in Cheshire against No. 9 Bullard Havens, 2-0 winners over No. 24 Plainfield Monday.
COGINCHAUG 1, NORTHWESTERN 0
NORWESTERN0 0— 0
Records: Coginchaug 8-8-1; Northwestern 12-3-2. Goal: C —Riley Carey. Shots: C—7, NW—6. Saves: C—Kyle Roberts 3, NW—Michael Neumann 5.