FALLS VILLAGE — Housatonic’s boys soccer team cemented its position as a Class S state tournament sleeper with a 1-0 win against Lewis Mills on a Luke Mollica goal Tuesday afternoon at Housatonic High School.
Housatonic completed the regular season at 9-7 after self-reporting an ineligible player in four previous games, turning three wins into losses with the forfeits.
Since the last forfeit, for an October 5 win at Shepaug, the Mountaineers have lost just one game — 2-0 at Lewis Mills’ Nasassegan Field two weeks ago — including Ws over the top three teams in the Berkshire League, Nonnewaug, Litchfield and Mills, in their final six wins.
Tuesday’s latest win gives Litchfield a chance to share the BL championship with Mills if the Cowboys win at Wamogo today.
For the perennial BL champion Spartans (13-2-1), the loss completed a bitter goodbye before leaving for the CCC next year, with two losses in their final three league games.
“(The Spartans) played well in the loss to Litchfield,” said Mills coach Ben Kulas. “(Mills) played terrible today. (Housatonic) outworked us and outplayed us. They deserved to win. This is the most frustrated I’ve been.”
Frustration for Mills began in the first half when Housatonic consistently stopped the Spartans at midfield.
“We use five midfielders and play to our strength,” said coach Jim Terrall, whose Mountaineers recorded their first win in six years against Mills.
“This is one of the best midfields we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said senior midfield leader Matt Lopes.
Fourteen minutes into the game, Lopes led one of many counterattacks from midfield.
“I saw Luke make a run and passed it to him,” Lopes said.
“It was a perfect feed and I just kicked it in,” said Mollica, whose bullet came on the run from 10 yards out.
Down 1-0, Mills had plenty of opportunities left.
Eleven minutes from the half, a Spartan striker had an open shot in front of the goal, skying it over the net. With four minutes until the half, goalkeeper Caleb Shpur dove to deflect a shot out of bounds.
Shpur, with 12 saves, played an even bigger role in the second half.
“I try to keep the score out of my head and not look at the clock, but sometimes I slip,” Shpur laughed.
“Sometimes, against Mills, I’ve tried to pack in the defense with a lead. Today, with the talent we have, we played them straight up,” said Terrall.
“We’ve lived on our defense all year,” Terrall said after a 1-0 win at third-place Nonnewaug last week.
Mills mounted more offense in the second half, shining a spotlight on Mountaineer defensive stars, noticeably including senior Zach Ongley and sophomore Michah Matsudaira. But time after time, Shpur was a rock at the final line.
“This was our 10th shutout of the year,” said Terrall.
Meanwhile, the Mills girls, playing on an adjacent field, completed their 14th shutout of their final BL season in a 3-0 win over the second-place Housy girls.
Mills’ girls, 15-0 with one game left, at Wamogo on Thursday, have given up just two goals all year, in a 6-2 win at Nonnewaug three weeks ago.
HOUSATONIC 1, LEWIS MILLS 0
LEWIS MILLS 0 0 — 0
HOUSATONIC 1 0 — 1
Goal: H — Luke Mollica. Assist: H — Matt Lopes. Shots: 12-8 Lewis Mills. Saves: LM — Ben Harris 7. H — Caleb Shpur 12.
Records: Lewis Mills 13-2-1. Housatonic 9-7.