OLD SAYBROOK — The seniors at East Hampton had never beaten the Old Saybrook boys soccer team. In fact, no Bellringers’ team had done so in six years.
East Hampton had one final chance this season to knock off the winners of the last two Class S state championships. The Bellringers made sure they cashed in this time.
Justin Landon scored in the first overtime period to help the fourth-seeded Bellringers upend top-seeded Old Saybrook 2-1 on Friday afternoon in the Shoreline Conference tournament semifinals.
“We knew it was our game to win,” Landon said. “We’ve worked so hard to get to this point, it wouldn’t have been fair to us who have been working so hard to not win this game. As a senior, it means everything to go to the Shoreline finals.”
East Hampton will host No. 6 seed Haddam-Killingworth in Monday’s final at a time to be determined. H-K eliminated No. 7 Portland in the other Shoreline semifinal.
“They knew they were the better team. They knew they could do it,” East Hampton coach Rocco Christiana said. “Old Saybrook has been a strong, great team for years and years and years and years to come. They’re awesome with great kids and great coaching. I’m at a loss for words.”
Landon, one of seven seniors on the East Hampton roster, had an opportunity at a wide-open net when Old Saybrook goalkeeper Matt Rothman came out to try and corral a shot attempt.. Landon sent it home with 4:55 remaining in the first overtime.
“My fellow captain, Jack Piper won the ball in the middle and he played me a great ball up top,” Landon said. “I was ale to beat the defender, the goalie came out, was unlucky and I was just able to put it back in the net.”
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The Bellringers’ defense did the rest, clearing ball after ball and allowing just one shot in the second overtime period. The Shoreline plays a pair of 10-minute periods in overtime, not sudden death.
“I told the guys afterwards that in a big game, usually three plays make the game. You’ve got to be willing to make a play on one of those three,” Old Saybrook coach Steve Waters said.
The loss denied Waters the chance to become the sport’s all-time wins leader. Waters, who spent 36 seasons at Farmington before stepping down in 2018, has a career record of 565-91-51, tied with former E.O. Smith coach John Blomstrann.
“We played with each other and coached against each other a lot,” Waters said about Blomstrann. “Our generation, there were guys like (renowned coach Bob) Dikranian and (former UConn men’s soccer coach Joe) Morrone, they tore down the trees and got the road open for guys like me and Blomstrann and other guys. They let us go ahead and pave it.”
Waters will now have to wait until the 2021 season to set the mark.
Waters was an assistant coach last year at Old Saybrook under Sam Barnes. The Rams shared the league title with Morgan in 2019.
Things were looking good at halftime for Old Saybrook on Friday. Cameron DeAngelo had provided the Rams with a 1-0 lead.
But East Hampton had other ideas. Ephraim Butson’s corner kick midway through the second half entered the box. An Old Saybrook defender saved the first attempt at a tying goal.
The ball ended up coming back out to Butson, who fired into the net for the equalizer.
“Our team is always the one that gives you the big fight but down the road, we are not the ones that are going to win. We are now,” Christiana said.
Both teams had quality chances for the go-ahead goal in regulation and combined on 11 corner kicks in the half, but the game ended up going to overtime.
East Hampton took care of things from there.
“Our goal was to stay strong in the middle, try to win the 50-50 balls, just keep backing them up,” Christiana said. “You back a team like that up, or any good team and they are out of their game. The last 20 minutes of this game, our kids wanted it more.”