BURLINGTON >> In a roller coaster ride of power between two previously-unbeaten Berkshire League boys soccer teams, Nonnewaug seniors Nate Firlings and Leland Malloy connected for the second time, three minutes into overtime, at Burlington’s Nassahegan Field for a 2-1 win over Lewis Mills.
Each team took turns being stunned by the skill and physicality of the other as four-time defending league champion Mills scored the first goal against Nonnewaug seven minutes into the game, then saw the Chiefs tie it and roar back in the second half on their way to finally putting the Spartans away.
Mills was unbeaten in the league in their four-year reign, but turned out a younger-than-usual group this year, making Nonnewaug the pre-season favorites.
Chiefs Coach Toby Denman wasn’t fooled.
“I told the guys they couldn’t be surprised by how good they were,” he said. “We can’t ever be surprised by how good a Lewis Mills team is.”
“We expected a hard fought match,” said Malloy, who set up Firlings for both Nonnewaug goals. “We haven’t seen a team with the physicality of their speed and footwork.”
That combination dazzled the Chiefs from the opening touch. Spartans got to most 50/50 balls first, moving to the attack or turning a would-be Nonnewaug attack upfield.
In the eighth minute, sophomore Carter Viets sent a cross into the box; sophomore Nick Lutrzykowski headed it to junior John Mudgett on the right wing and suddenly, the Chiefs were scored on for the first time this year.
“You’ve gotta step up, guys,” hollered Nonnewaug goalkeeper Ryan Rescsanski at his team, but the Spartans kept coming.
Nevertheless, in the final minute of the half, after maneuvering around a Mills defender, Nonnewaug’s Malloy sent a pass into the Mills penalty box as Firlings crashed through.
The score was tied, 1-1.
“I think if we had survived that first half, the second half might have been different,” said Spartan Coach Ben Kulas. “They had the momentum.”
“We kept shifting our formation and finally found the right one,” said Firlings.
The right formation, momentum and longer sends upfield turned the Chiefs into a new team, besieging the Spartans for the first 30 minutes of the period.
“We have young guys who aren’t used to a team like Nonnewaug,” said Kulas.
Still, 10 minutes before the end of regulation, the Spartans turned their own heat back up, taking their own momentum into the 10-minute overtime (two five-minute halves) when they couldn’t produce a goal by the end of regulation.
Three minutes into the first overtime half, Malloy chipped a ball into a crowd in the Spartan box. Firlings bodied it in from the doorstep.
In the final five minutes, the Chiefs were back in control, with freshman Josh Cheatham giving a virtuoso performance tying up the ball for long seconds in Mills’ corner.
The two teams go at it again at Nonnewaug in the last game of their regular season, November 1.
Some 500 raucous fans at Thursday’s game are likely to bring their friends.
Nonnewaug 2, Lewis Mills 1 (OT)
Nonnewaug 1 0 1 0 – 1
Lewis Mills 1 0 0 0 – 1
Goals: N – Nate Firlings 2. LM – John Mudgett. Assists: N – Leland Malloy 2. LM – Nick Lutrzykowski. Shots: 10-8 Nonnewaug. Saves: N – Ryan Rescsanski 7. LM – Ben Smith and Jackson Lord 8.
Records: Nonnewaug 9-0; Lewis Mills 8-1.