DANBURY — There were several instances, earlier in Friday’s FCIAC quarterfinal game, when Danbury High School boys soccer player Malamin Jallow came agonizingly close to scoring a goal but couldn’t quite capitalize.
With the fate of the Hatters’ season hanging in the balance, Jallow had one more opportunity in overtime.
And he nailed it.
Jallow, a dynamic senior forward, booted home a low shot off an assist from Tiago Dos Reis with less than four minutes remaining in the first of two 10-minute overtime periods to lift the top-seeded Hatters to a 3-2 victory over Brien McMahon, the upset-minded eighth seed.
“We were up two and we let it slip, so we couldn’t let it go down any more,” Jallow said. “It feels good to put one in the net and be moving on.”
The Hatters (11-1-5) are set to face the winner of Friday night’s crosstown quarterfinal clash between fourth-seeded Fairfield Ludlowe and fifth-seeded Fairfield Warde.
“We pulled through, and that’s always nice. The main thing is that you win the game,” Danbury coach Antony Howard said. “But we need to be better than that if we’re going to win the next round.”
After Jallow put Danbury ahead in overtime, the Hatters had to hold their lead for nearly 14 minutes. They did so thanks in large part to two tremendous saves by goalkeeper Matt Silva in the second 10-minute overtime period. With less than five minutes remaining and the Hatters ahead by one, Silva leaped to deflect a high shot by McMahon’s Alex Vargas over the crossbar. Off the ensuing corner kick, Silva dove to his right to deny Senators sniper Christopher Ocampo’s shot from close range.
“I had no idea what that guy was going to do,” said Silva, who finished with five saves. “There was the entire team in front of me. I saw it at the last second in between two guys. It was a knuckle-ball. It dipped and swerved a little bit, and I somehow made the save.”
The Senators (8-5-4) have certainly turned some heads around the FCIAC this season. They qualified for the FCIAC playoffs for the first time since 2007 — and very nearly took down the top seed — and qualified for the Class LL state tournament for the first time since 2012.
“I’m proud of this team,” McMahon coach Rodrigo Guzman said. “I’m proud of the boys. They work hard, that’s the No. 1 thing.”
The Senators will now shift their focus to the state tournament, which is scheduled to begin with the play-downs on Nov. 3.
“This is heartbreaking for them, but we just have to look at the positives,” Guzman said. “We get to practice one more week, and hopefully, we can make some noise.”
TALE OF TWO HALVES
Danbury dominated the first half and led 2-0 at halftime on a pair of goals by Dos Reis, one of which was assisted by Lucas Oliveira. The Hatters generated quite a few scoring chances in the first half and seemed to be in the driver’s seat heading into the second half.
Not so fast.
The Senators came storming back in the second half and tied the game on a pair of goals by Masai Castillero, the second of which was scored with less than three minutes remaining in regulation. Goalkeeper Norberto Santiago IV finished with nine saves to put the Senators in a position to win.
“Nobody should ever count us out,” Guzman said. “We’re a team that’s going to battle and fight to get back into the game and give a No. 1 seed a great game. That’s what the guys are about. They’re about hard work.”
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DANBURY 3, MCMAHON 2 (OT)
MCMAHON (8-5-4)0 2 0 0 — 2
DANBURY (11-1-5)2 0 1 0 — 3
Scoring: 1. D, Tiago Dos Reis, 10:00; 2. D, Dos Reis (Lucas Oliveira) 31:00; 3. Mc, Masai Castillero, 42:00; 4. Mc, Castillero 78:00; 5. D, Malamin Jallow (Dos Reis) 87:00. Shots: McMahon 13; Danbury 20. Saves: Mc—Norberto Santiago IV 9; D—Matt Silva 5.