TORRINGTON >> No. 13 Pomperaug (12-4-2) came back from a big first-half hole to beat No. 4 Torrington (18-3) 3-2 in overtime Friday evening at Torrington’s Robert H. Frost Sports Complex in a Class L Boys Soccer Tournament second-round game.
The Red Raiders made it look too easy with a 2-0 lead in the first half, beginning just three minutes in with a Chris Parrotta header off a pinpoint restart kick by Shane Bierfeldt from 40 yards away.
Though the teams finished the half with two shots apiece, Torrington, with lots of space to work with, dominated the play. Twenty-five minutes in, Bierfeldt sent a corner kick into the box. John McCarthy got a foot on it, kicking it over to Shane Walker alone just off the left post, 2-0.
“In the first half, we were giving up space, just standing around. They were killing me,” said Pomperaug coach Joe Mancini.
Parrotta slammed a ball off a defender in close five minutes from the half.
The Raiders looked every bit the better team.
Meanwhile, another factor built. The referees let the game play through some blatantly rough play. The game was bound to get more physical.
Two minutes from the end of the half, Torrington goalkeeper Zack Paniati dove for a dangerous deflection near his net.
The Raiders set school records for regular-season wins (15) and shutouts (11) this year. The game seemed well in hand for Torrington.
The Panthers had seen it before.
“That’s what happens in most of our games,” said sophomore striker Matt Ryan. “In the first half, we’re just kicking the ball. In the second half, we get re-organized.”
The Raiders, not expecting the re-organization, thought they saw the real Pomperaug in the first half.
“I don’t know if it was overconfidence or letting our guard down. Maybe both,” said Torrington coach Mike Fritch Jr.
Four minutes in, Raider foot skills still seemed superior when Torrington sweeper McCarthy stepped in to strip a Panther forward, sending the ball the other way.
Six minutes in, there was a knockdown at Pomperaug’s end of the field, then John Ryan kicked to his brother Matt at Torrington’s end, 2-1.
The Panthers played closer; the game was more physical.
Still, Torrington had its chances. Walker worked up the middle half-way through the period, banging a shot off Panther goalkeeper Drew Berkowitz out of bounds.
“The space was still there; we just didn’t take advantage of it,” said Fritch.
Four minutes later, Kostika Kosova sent a corner kick into the box. Matt Ryan re-enacted Chris Parrotta’s header from the game’s first three minutes, 2-2.
The first half was long gone.
Now, the Panthers noticeably thrived on their comeback. Each team got a yellow card as they tested the refs’ limits.
In a standoff, Pomperaug went ahead in the shot count, 8-6, but Parrotta came within an eyelash of winning it for Torrington in the final minute of regulation.
Shooting from 15 yards left of the net, Parrotta’s shot streaked over Berkowitz’ head, just catching the far post. which sent it back out on the field. Another Torrington shot off the rebound sailed over the net.
“I don’t know how Chris’s shot doesn’t go in,” said Fritch. “We’re getting round posts next year.”
Five minutes into overtime, Torrington keeper Paniati batted a hard shot over the net. Seconds later, on the corner kick, John Ryan had the ball at the top of the box. His low shot caromed off a crowd of players in the box, into the net, 3-2.
Torrington had shots in the final 10 minutes. Berkowitz got them all.
The Panthers move on to a quarter-final match with No. 5 RHAM (16-0-2) at Hebron Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Raiders reflect on a great season.
“They need to realize everything they accomplished this year. The wins and shutout records were more than I imagined before the season began,” said Coach Fritch. “I wouldn’t trade these guys for anything.”
No. 13 Pomperaug 3, No. 4 Torrington 0 (OT)
At Torrington High School
Pomperaug 0 2 1 0-3
Torrington 2 0 0 0-2
Goals: P-Matt Ryan 2; John Ryan. T-Chris Parrotta; Shane Walker. Assists: P-J. Ryan; Kostika Kosova. T-Shane Bierfeldt; John McCarthy. Shots: 10-9 Pomperaug. Saves: P-Drew Berkowitz 7. T-Zach Paniati 7.
Records: Pomperaug 12-4-2; Torrington 18-3.