Staples falls to Farmington in Class LL final
Published 3:22 pm, Monday, November 22, 2010
James Hickok kept turning his head back towards the game-clock, helplessly watching the seconds tick away.
"I just kept hoping and couldn't stop turning around to look at the clock," said Staples' sophomore goalkeeper. "As a goalkeeper you can't win games, but you can save your team. Our team came so far this season, especially after the way we started."
Fifth-seeded Staples, which began the season with losses in two of its first three games, ended a 20-game unbeaten run with a 2-1 loss in the Class LL boys soccer final against sixth-seeded Farmington.
With 15 minutes remaining in a tied game, Hickok could do nothing but stare as a 20-yard free kick that curled up, over, and around his wall before nestling into the top corner of his goal.
After falling behind in the first half, Staples equalized minutes before the Indians won a free kick at the top of the penalty box that their Yale-bound playmaker Kevin Michalak perfectly struck, leaving the goalkeeper rooted to his line.
"A kick like that," Hickok said, "most goalkeepers at this level don't expect it from that kind of position. Any other day it might not happen that way. Unfortunately, what happened happens -- they had two shots on goal and scored two goals."
The defending champion Wreckers dominated possession and enjoyed an indisputable edge in pressure in front of goal. But Farmington -- the 2008 Class LL champion -- made the most of its limited opportunities thanks to Michalak, the game's MVP, and his expert free kick.
"I've been on both sides of games like this, and that's what makes soccer great," Wreckers Coach Dan Woog said. "You win some and you lose some, and you have to tip your hat to Farmington. There is no side I'd rather have been with than this group of guys."
In the first half Staples' Steven Denowitz and Frankie Bergonzi both had free headers that they couldn't direct goal-ward, while Lorenz Esposito and Court Lake missed chances from close range, shooting directly at Farmington goalkeeper Austin Peluso.
"It was sheer heart, soul, and passion that won the game today," said Indians Coach Steve Waters, who claimed the school's ninth state title. "We knew we'd have to defend in the box quite a bit."
Michalak provided the opener in the 30th minute after beating his man on the wing down the right side. Once clear, the senior sent a low cross towards the penalty spot behind a retreating Staples defender that fell perfectly for Adrian Kukula, whose one-time shot back toward the near post left Hickok, who was moving right across his line, wrong-footed.
"Kevin reads the entire scope and sequence of the game," Waters said. "He's an intelligent player that makes the guys around him that much better."
Play was restricted to the Farmington penalty box for much of the second half. Staples equalized in the 62nd minute when a free kick from the right side was headed away but not cleared by the Farmington defense. The ball squirted out to Lake, Staples' defensive center-midfielder and best overall performer of the day, who one-timed a volley through traffic into the side netting.
But three minutes later Farmington won its fateful free kick and Michalak knew the game rested on his shoulders.
"When they scored it was kind of devastating after going through the first half and much of the second half without conceding," Michalak said. "I knew I had to take advantage of that opportunity and at least put the ball on frame. I was aiming for that corner and it just went in."