TORRINGTON >> Torrington High School’s boys soccer team (9-1) looked sharp in a 2-0 non-conference win over New Milford (4-4-2) Saturday afternoon that might easily have gone the other way.
“I was thinking it might have been a trap game,” said senior captain Shane Bierfeldt.
There were plenty of reasons: the seniors took their SAT tests in the morning; an out-of-league game against a big school with a so-so record; Saturday afternoon…
Any of them could have turned the Red Raiders flat. None of them did.
“We came out fired up,” said Bierfelt. “We ran everywhere.”
The Raiders pounced when they could against a Green Wave team that missed a few opportunities of their own.
“It’s a tough field to play on,” said New Milford coach Antony Howard. “They took their chances; we didn’t. They capitalized on our mistakes; we didn’t capitalize on theirs.”
One big reason was exceptional backup from Torrington’s midfield, defenders and goalkeeper Zack Paniati.
“The midfield possessed very well today,” said assistant coach Kevin Poniatoski. “Chris Parrotta played great. He was getting up and down the field and attacking.”
New Milford starts four sophomores, including goalkeeper Adam Llerena (6 saves), but they play in a big-school league, the SouthWest Conference, where a 4-4-3 record shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The Raiders took that to heart, finding a stiff Green Wave defense, but an offense that lacked the kind of support Torrington’s forwards had.
“Most of their opportunities came off (restarts),” said Poniatoski.
Torrington got off the game’s first shot in the open field.
Four minutes into the game, Zack Mancini’s throw-in on the right side of the field led to the Raiders’ first score.
Parrotta, about 6-feet-2, got his head on it in the box, sending the ball to the corner of the net.
New Milford’s first restart came six minutes later from the top of the box…straight into Torrington’s defensive wall.
Raider center mid Kevin Vaca stepped in to turn a charge at midfield; Torrington keeper Zack Paniati (4 saves) leaped in a crowd on another restart for the first of several sure-handed grabs that kept momentum flowing to the other end of the field.
“My job is to clean up mistakes and protect us on fouls,” said the big senior.
Torrington’s hustle made the Green Wave look like the team in a trap game.
Midway through the period, a besieged New Milford defender hollered, “Let’s go, Green, wake up!”
New Milford’s best chance came 10 minutes from the break, on the Wave’s first corner kick. Senior Nikolas Stefanatos sent it to the box; senior Nevan Swanson got a head on it. The shot went wide right.
Three minutes into the second half, Torrington’s John McCarthy came even closer on an identical play.
Alex Church sent it to the box. McCarthy’s header grazed the right post, out of bounds.
New Milford’s aggressiveness cranked up; so did Torrington’s mastery.
Thirteen minutes into the half, defender McCarthy won a battle in Torrington’s corner, sending the ball to midfielder Bierfeldt up the right side. Bierfeldt won another battle on the fly.
Sixteen minutes in, a New Milford forward was trapped in a corner.
“Help him out!” hollered Coach Howard, making the difference clear again.
Three minutes later, Torrington’s Parrotta, working the ball in the left corner, passed off to Vaca. Vaca’s shot glanced off New Milford’s Llerena. Forward Shane Walker was there to pump it back with his left foot, 2-0.
Support won the day.
New Milford had a great point-blank chance moments later and missed the kick. Paniati lost the ball in the box, then dove back onto it in the 23rd.
He stuck a hard shot from New Milford senior Joe DeNault six minutes from the end.
It was the sixth shutout for the Raiders. They’ve outscored their opponents collectively 42-5.
Torrington travels to 1-7-1 Woodland Monday. New Milford goes to Weston.
Torrington 2, New Milford 0
At Torrington High School
New Milford 0 0-0
Torrington 1 1-2
Goals: T-Chris Parrotta; Shane Walker. Assists: T-Nick Mancini. Shots: 8-4 Torrington. Saves: NM-Adam Llerena 6. T-Zack Paniati 4.
Records: New Milford 4-4-2; Torrington 9-1.