Class S title in reach for Cowboys
Class S title in reach for Cowboys
LITCHFIELD – Here’s the thing about Litchfield’s Class S boys soccer title game against No. 4 Somers Saturday at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury. It doesn’t matter whether the Cowboys win or lose.
Okay, I know that nobody in Litchfield land wants to hear that right now. Being there isn’t just what it is about. The Cowboys smell title, they can taste title. And should the final outcome go the other way, disappointment is inevitable and expected.
But, when you haven’t won a title in 48 years (1963) or been in a final in 36 seasons (1975) and you were barely above .500 two weeks ago having lost two of your last three games, one a 7-2 battering at the hands of Thomaston, the truth be known there is a whole lot to be said for `being there.’
Nobody wants to win more than Cowboys coach Rob Andrulis. And yet nobody knows better than Andrulis that nobody can take this memorable ride away from his team whatever the outcome is.
“This is a great thing for Litchfield already,” said Andrulis. “This is gravy. This is about the kids enjoying it. It is a huge accomplishment and they are never going to forget it. The town and school have been really excited.’
Part of the excitement is from the Litchfield girls team who will take the field before the male classmates to play No. 5 Immaculate-Danbury. Two teams, one school, two championships on the line.
Yeh, Litchfield’s been rocking and rolling this week. One team would have had the community just rocking, but two teams? In any sport, but particularly soccer? They’re rocking and rolling. A huge cloud of proud has stormed into Litchfield and even Al Roker didn’t predict this.
Andrulis’ club lost its regular season finale to Wamogo and took a 7-6-2 record into the tournament. One and done? Maybe a two-game stay? You are lying if you thought more.
“If you told me we’d be here I’d say you were drinking,” admitted Andrulis. “When we were 2-1 early in the season I thought we would be very good. Then we went into a funk, thinking we were invincible. It was a frustrating month and a half. I didn’t know what to expect. Sometimes we were great and sometimes we stunk it up. At times, the focus got away from soccer. ”
In one two week span the Cowboys lost to Thomaston, 8-3, Shepaug 9-0 and Northwestern Regional, 7-1. Wildly erratic to say the least. Some might even say losing in style.
Then the roll started.
Andrulis brought his brother Greg, a former professional soccer player, into to talk to the team after the loss to Wamogo. Something clicked. Focus returned and as Andrulis said, “They began to live the dream.”
Ironically enough, Wamogo was the first round opponent and the Cowboys avenged that late season defeat with a 3-1 victory. Then came No. 3 Old Lyme.
The Cowboys were down, 1-0 with five minutes left and Finn Sander tied the game with Nick Hula getting the game winner with two seconds left.
“Finn’s goal created the momentum that will define us in this tournament,” said Andrulis.
Up next was No. 6 East Granby and with Nick Hula scoring two goalss the Cowboys rolled, 4-2, in a game Andrulis feels his team dominated. Second-ranked Valley Regional was now on the horizon.
Litchfield scored early and then lost Quinn McCarthy from the midfield. At times in the second half Valley had nine guys behind the ball. Somehow the Cowboys defense hung on. The championship game awaits.
Somers will be on the other side of the ball and Andrulis knows it is a formidable challenge his team has.
“Somers (16-3) is the defending champs and has beaten Class L finalist Avon,”
said Andrulis. “They are a quality program that is loaded.”
But Andrulis has seen a team that has found its chemistry and come together offensively and defensively. He has seen a team that has bought into what has been taught them. He knows he has quality players like Sander and Hula and Kyle Murphy to name a few.
He knows the town is beaming. He ran into former CIAC Director and Litchfield resident Mike Savage who coached the 1963 team and knows it is an inspiration to the 2011 Cowboys. And Andrulis knows his team has some mojo going.
Litchfield can’t lose Saturday no matter what the final score. It has been a ride for the ages. They hope to finish it off. But they are there and only Somers can say the same thing. In a sense the Cowboys have already won.