TORRINGTON — Litchfield’s Tim Donovan scored three goals along with another by wingmate Charlie Shanks, carrying the No. 2 Cowboys past No. 23 Immaculate 4-1 in the Class S boys soccer quarterfinals Saturday night at Torrington’s Robert H. Frost Sports Complex.
“We play in a league (the South West Conference) with L and LL schools, so it’s sometimes hard to tell about a team just from scores in the Berkshire League,” said Immaculate coach Steve Carneiro, whose Mustangs (9-9-1) seemed poised to be a Class S Cinderella team after a season with the big schools and convincing tournament wins over No. 10 Hale Ray and No. 7 St. Paul.
But this year, the league co-champion Cowboys proved they were legit in the regular season with a win and a tie against Class M defending champion Lewis Mills and one of the best scoring combinations in the state in Donovan, with a school record 30 goals, and Shanks, with nearly as many assists.
After a hard-fought overtime win against Housatonic — a legitimate Cinderella contender itself, from the BL — it was no surprise to Litchfield fans when the Cowboys came out dazzling on offense and defense Saturday.
A Donovan shot from the right wing just missed the upper left corner of the net in the game’s second minute. Shanks followed with hard shots in the eight and ninth.
In the 12th minute, Donovan lined up the same shot as his earlier miss, off a throw-in by Augie Hurtado, and found that upper left corner for the game’s first goal.
Meanwhile, the Cowboy defense, pressuring a good Immaculate team for the entire first half, didn’t allow a Mustang shot for the first 15 minutes.
Three minutes later, a hard Immaculate shot found senior goalkeeper Colby Bunnell for the first of several great saves.
While a double-teaming Litchfield defense smothered Immaculate, Donovan and Shanks, consistently found or made space for shots.
Midway through the half, Donovan headed a throw by Carson Mello, into the far side of the net.
Nine minutes into the second half, Donovan, a sophomore, corralled a long serve from John Ray with only one defender between him and Mustang goalkeeper Connor Mitchell. Neither had a chance. Donovan jigged past the defender and charged Mitchell for his third goal of the night, 3-0.
Coach Carneiro was convinced.
“They had an excellent player up front,” he said. “Those were world class goals. In high school, one player like that can change the game.”
Down 3-0, Immaculate stepped up its own offense, but Bunnell was there for his best save of the night in the 13th minute.
Seven minutes from the end, Shanks showed again that Litchfield has two great players up front on a give-and-go with Donovan for the final Cowboy goal.
“Charlie was always right there with me,” Donovan said.
A minute later, Mustang Quinn Guth buried a shot for Immaculate, but the game was long since over.
“That’s a good quality program. I was surprised they didn’t press us (on defense),” said Litchfield coach Rob Andrulis.
Litchfield moves on to the semifinals next Wednesday at a time and place to be announced against No. 6 Old Saybrook.
“They beat us last year in the quarterfinals on this exact day,” said goalkeeper Bunnell. “I have a memory for that kind of thing.”
No. 2 Litchfield 4, No. 23 Immaculate 1
Immaculate 0 1 — 1
Litchfield 2 2 — 4
Goals: I — Quinn Guth. L — Tim Donovan 3; Charlie Shanks. Assists: L — Augie Hurtado; Carson Mello; John Ray; Donovan. Shots: 15-11 Litchfield. Saves: I — Connor Mitchell 4. L — Colby Bunnell 4.
Records: Immaculate 9-9-1; Litchfield 15-2-1.