Standing less than 10 yards from goal, Staples boys soccer midfielder Patrick Beusse had little time to think when the ball reached his right foot near the end of a tie game.
With seconds left and the goal in sight, Beusse fired a stinging shot that whistled through the outstretched arms of Darien goalie Liam Rischmann and sent the Wreckers bench into delirium.
Beusse's deciding strike with 12 seconds left on the clock and two goals by Charlie Leonard helped Staples to a 3-2 win over host Darien on Thursday. The win clinched a spot in the FCIAC tournament for the Wreckers.
"It is pretty exciting," Beusse said of his winning strike. "We needed that win. I need to hit it in, there wasn't anything else I could do except hit it in."
Staples (9-2-2) had a goal disallowed with a minute remaining, but still had time to snatch all three points thanks to Beusse. Buesse was all alone on the wing and had plenty of space to get into a dangerous position.
"We were just naive really," Darien coach Jon Bradley said. "To give up a goal with 12 seconds left is just inexperience."
Darien (4-7-2) had rallied from a 2-0 deficit by scoring twice within three and a half minutes in the second half. Alexei Gunya scored off a breakaway after dribbling around the final defender and Jack Kniffin finished off a counter attack with 12:03 left.
"I think the pep talk we got from (Bradley) at halftime got us going," Darien captain Chris Chiamulera said. "We played a lot better after that."
The Wreckers, playing without starting goalie Noah Schwaeber (out with a concussion) and defensive stalwart Andrew Puchala, appeared to be on their way to another clean sheet before the Blue Wave attack sprung to life.
"We just started to be a little more direct, to get at their defense," Bradley said. "We started to play long balls over the top, eliminate the midfield and make it a little more difficult to play. "To be honest I think we were unlucky not to win the game."
Staples lead 1-0 at the break after Leonard drilled a long shot that went under the diving Rischmann. Neither coach was pleased with their team's performance and the pace quickened up in the second half.
"We started to play wide much more in the last 10 or 15 minutes," Beusse said. "We just needed to get crosses in low and hard."
Leonard finished off a fine move by the Wreckers to make it 2-0 early in the second half. Staples quickly worked the ball to the byline, and Joe Pravder delivered a perfect cross that found the feet of Leonard, who finished with an accurate shot.
"(Leonard) had a great game," Staples coach Dan Woog said. "We've used him at about every position but goalkeeper. He was on fire today and could have had a couple more."
Brenden Price made five saves for Staples.