TORRINGTON — For 80 minutes of a Class S boys soccer second-round game at Torrington High School, No. 2 Litchfield (14-2-1) fought No 15 Housatonic (10-8) to a scoreless deadlock between what’s arguably the Berkshire League’s best offense against its best defense.
Then overtime opened the nets for a 3-1 Litchfield win featuring Charlie Shanks and Tim Donovan, the Cowboy pair most responsible for Litchfield’s potent offense.
“You don’t want an easy game in the state tournament,” said the senior Shanks, who scored two goals in the overtime’s first 10 minutes.
But even then, Housatonic’s Lucas Calhoun broke through for a Mountaineer goal, making a final PK round still seem a distinct possibility.
“That is a very good team,” said Litchfield coach Rob Andrulis. “Without (four forfeits for a self-reported ineligible player), they’re 13-5.
The Mountaineers came to the Robert H. Frost Sports Complex’s turf field with major momentum. After their forfeits, Housatonic finished the season with six straight wins, including ones against league co-champion Litchfield and the other two BL teams then above them in the standings.
Tuesday, the Mountaineers knocked off No. 18 Bolton, 3-1, in a first-round game while the Cowboys sat out a bye.
“We’ve lived on our defense all season,” said Housatonic coach Jim Terrall before one of the Housy regular-season wins.
Thursday, Terrall trusted Jeff Palmer, his best defender, to mark BL scoring-leader Donovan.
The teams played up to their reputations in the first half. Litchfield outshot Housatonic 7-0, but Donovan, hampered by a hip flexor and Palmer’s shadow, wasn’t a factor.
The second half flipped as Housatonic’s offense took over with several good chances.
If the first half was act one between two of the league’s best goalkeepers, featuring Housatonic’s Caleb Shpur, the second half shined a spotlight on Litchfield’s Colby Bunnell.
The prospect of a PK shootout with them alternating in the net loomed large.
Both teams started the 20-minute overtime with clear intent to avoid the final round.
In the first minute, Housy’s Jack McAuliffe raced alone to the Litchfield net, called back by an offsides ruling.
A minute later, Donovan took a pass near the Mountaineer back line, popping it out to Shanks at the top of the keeper’s box. His shot whistled into the net.
“That first goal energized us,” said Donovan, a sophomore who spent much of his stellar season converting assists from Shanks.
But, if assigning Housy’s best defender to Donovan was successful for most of Thursday’s game, its penalty came from an open Shanks for another great shot in the sixth minute.
“We didn’t clear the ball on the first goal,” said Terrall.
Down 2-0 at the start of overtime’s second half, Mountaineer Calhoun kept his balance on a drive over a would-be Cowboy tackle for Housatonic’s goal.
Three minutes later, Shanks crossed a pass to Donovan on the left side of the Housy net for the clincher.
“We have a special chemistry,” said Shanks.
With today’s rain expected to leave Litchfield’s Plum Hill Field unplayable again, the Cowboys host No. 23 Immaculate back at Torrington in Saturday’s quarterfinals at a time to be announced.
Immaculate beat No. 7 St. Paul 3-1 Thursday.
No. 2 Litchfield 3, No. 15 Housatonic 1 (OT)
Housatonic 0 0 0 1 — 1
Litchfield 0 0 2 1 — 3
Goals: H — Lucas Calhoun. L — Charlie Shanks 2; Tim Donovan. Assists: L — Donovan; Shanks. Shots: 15-7 Litchfield. Saves: H — Caleb Shpur 8. L — Colby Bunnell 5.
Records: Housatonic 10-8; Litchfield 14-2-1.