NORWALK — There are multiple reasons Fairfield Ludlowe’s Nico Rullo wears the captain’s armband.
Having his foot on the ball with the game on the line is just one of them.
Rullo buried a penalty kick with 9:16 left to play in Saturday’s FCIAC boys soccer showdown against Norwalk, lifting the Falcons to a 2-1 victory over the Bears at Testa Field.
The victory clinched a league playoff spot for Ludlowe, though the positioning remains to be decided by next week’s regular-season finales.
With the game tied 1-1, a Fairfield Ludlowe player, racing up the right sideline, was said to have been pulled down in the box, leading to the penalty kick for Ludlowe.
Rullo stepped up and as Norwalk goalkeeper Gianluca Trofa dove to his right, Rullo went the opposite way into the net for a 2-1 lead.
“This is my responsibility,” Rullo said. “This is what I need to do for the team as a leader. As somebody who came up through the ranks, it’s my responsibility to be the one to win the game for them, so I just embraced the pressure and buried it.”
Ludlowe coach Kevin O’Hara said his team has a number of players capable of stepping up at such a moment, but Rullo’s moment just happened to come Saturday.
“When we have an opportunity for a situation like in a game like this, he’s going to get the call,” O’Hara said.
Ludlowe improved to 9-4-2 while Norwalk slipped to 8-3-4.
Ludlowe raced out to a 1-0 lead by scoring just 80 seconds into the game.
Rullo set up Colin Agostisi for the tally, which gave the Eagles some early momentum.
“We were lucky enough to get on them early,” O’Hara said. “That really sparked my guys.”
Norwalk coach Chris Laughton was not pleased with his team’s start defensively.
“I was disappointed with how we came out,” Laughton said. “To give up a goal that early is unacceptable. But we fought back and turned the momentum, we just weren’t able to come out with the win.”
ANSWERING THE CALL
The Bears were able to find the equalizer in the second half when Mateo Davalos slid a through ball to Michael Hidalgo, who finished far post for a 1-1 tie.
“Chris is a great coach, one of the best in the league, and he always has his guys ready to play,” O’Hara said. “We knew we were coming into a tough game situation. Credit to them for coming back. Then we caught that lucky break with the PK at the end.”
Laughton didn’t want to give his opinion on the call that led to the penalty call.
“I’m going to get fined if I tell you what I really think,” he said.
Trofa finished the day with nine saves on 11 Ludlowe shots. The Bears also got off 11 shots with Ludlowe keeper Nicholas Tenreiro stopping 10.
“Our goal was to come up here and qualify for an FCIAC berth,” Rullo said. “We knew if we won today and won on Monday, we might get a home seed, too. So we came out today and took care of business.”
LUDLOWE 2, NORWALK 1
LUDLOWE 1 1—2
NORWALK 0 1—1
Records: Ludlowe (9-4-2), Norwalk 8-3-4; Scoring: FL—Colin Agostisi, Nico Rullo ; N—Michael Hidalgo; Assists: FL—Rullo, N—Mateo Davalos; Goalkeepers: FL—Nicholas Tenreior (10 saves), Gianluca Trofa (9 saves).