Wildcats slip past Raiders in early season showdown

MIC NICOSIA/Register Citizen Torrington's Matt Rosengrant, right, and Seymour's Louis Krohelski fight for possession during Friday's game. Purchase a glossy print of this photo and more at www.registercitizen.com.
MIC NICOSIA/Register Citizen Torrington's Matt Rosengrant, right, and Seymour's Louis Krohelski fight for possession during Friday's game. Purchase a glossy print of this photo and more at <a href="http://www.registercitizen.com">www.registercitizen.com</a>.

TORRINGTON -- All the scoring came in the first half of a 2-1 Seymour boys soccer win at Torrington High School's Robert H. Frost Sports Complex, but the jarring action and roaring of a large, excited Torrington crowd continued until the end.

"It was two teams just going at it -- two teams that will be in the top half of the NVL all year," said Torrington coach Mike Fritch. "We loved the crowd. They were loud; they were wonderful. The kids fed off that."

For newcomers to soccer in the crowd, this game was a good primer. With two teams as even and as physical as these, the action came in frenzied charges, flipped back and forth with the touch of a stopper.

The Red Raiders flew down for their first shot seconds into the game; a throw-in and header from Seymour glanced off the Torrington cross-bar minutes later.

Speed was a factor; both teams have it. Experience proved even bigger.

Four minutes into the game, the Raiders' defense, entirely new from last year's graduates, proved their mettle, stuffing a charge by speedy Seymour senior Jeromy Kershaw.

But a minute later, the Wildcat attack was back. Three Raider defenders ran forward to leave Kershaw and junior Ryan Maher offsides in front of the net; one Raider defender didn't.

That left the Seymour forwards onside and alone for a pass from midfielder Louis Krohelski. As Torrington goalkeeper Jon Abbott rushed forward to try to prevent an open shot, Maher chipped the ball over his head, into the goal.

"Their goals came on mental lapses," said Fritch.

Fifteen minutes into the half, all was forgiven. Raider Chris O'Heron threw in to Jairo Borja, 20 yards left of the goal. Borja's pure shot sailed over Seymour keeper Kyler Mayers into the top of the net, 1-1.

Charges on both sides came steadily. Senior back Phil Welford turned two Wildcat efforts; Torrington's Christian Anderson was the last of three waves, coming from midfield, seeming to make a Raider score inevitable. Instead, the Seymour defense stood in.

"We've been working on playing as a team," said Seymour Coach Joe Perrucci. "After taking our lumps for the lack of teamwork in six pre-season scrimmages, it looked like we finally had some for the first time tonight."

They needed it all against the Raiders.

Freddy Perez just missed a header off a Seymour defensive shank in the 25th minute.

In the 26th, mental lapses by Torrington, great execution by Seymour, won the game.

On a Seymour restart, Walter Podgorski, a big senior defender, put the ball down just over midfield. His ball sailed into the Torrington penalty box toward the left post. Kershaw was there to direct it into the net, 2-1.

"It was a set play we've practiced a lot," grinned Kershaw.

Now, it was organized melee into the second half to jolt another score free, either way.

Both teams had good chances. Borja's shot from the 18 went just wide 12 minutes into the second period; Seymour's Steven Tapia rattled the Torrington crossbar with a shot three minutes later.

But too much effort had its penalties. Seymour's Brian Biondi came out with a yellow card for holding 17 minutes into the second half. Two minutes later, Torrington's Matt Rosengrant got a red card for freeing himself with an elbow.

Biondi's penalty lasted five minutes; Rosengrant's left Torrington a man short for the rest of the game.

"I thought our backs did a heck of a job adjusting," said Coach Fritch.

Seymour found success on the left sideline, often springing Kershaw or Maher free on the wing.

"Coach told us to stay back until we were the last man down," said Kershaw.

"That's how you break down a team; get the ball up, then expand the offense on the field," said Maher.

Torrington's new defenders stood up to it just fine.

"We were both trying to beat the other on the sidelines," said Fritch.

In the waning minutes of the game, Fritch moved his team forward for final scoring efforts. This time, Seymour passed the test.

"They counterattacked very well," said Fritch.

Two mental lapses by a brand new defense; one sweet shot from outside. The rest pure, hard-nosed soccer, with a loud, excited crowd cheering every effort.

The top of the NVL has plenty of room for both these teams.