WATERBURY - The Litchfield High boys soccer team had not been to a state title game in a long, long time while thier opponent, Somers, is making it a habit.
Chalk one up for experience as the Spartans put an end to the Cowboys' magic run through the state tournament with a 7-1 victory on Saturday afternoon at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury.
The victory gave Somers its fourth title since 2004 and its third in the past four seasons. The Spartans (17-3) won the title last season with a 3-1 victory over Valley Regional and shared the crown in 2008 with Old Lyme.
"Today they finished their chances and we were only able to stick one it," Litchfield coach Rob Andrulis said. "It is what it is. I am really proud of my guys and really proud of what they accomplished."
The Spartans got all the scoring they would need in a span of 20 seconds about midway through the first half. After the teams felt each other out in the opening minutes, Somers began to get some chances. Donald Whittle and Jake Alvaro both got off good looks from inside the box but both sent low, hard shots just outside the right post.
But it was only a matter of time.
After a questionable foul call gave the Spartans a free kick, they capitalized as the ball hit the cross bar and fell to Nicholas Elia, who was able to direct the loose ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead with 23:09 left in the first half.
In the blink of an eye the Spartans doubled their lead. Gaining possession after the restart, Luke Alvaro pushed the ball down into the left corner and sent a cross into the box. A streaking Whittle beat the Litchfield defense to the ball and with 22:49 to play in the first half it was 2-0 Spartans.
Obviously down, Litchfield didn't pack it in and started to get a few chances of its own. After a near miss off a long throw-in by Andrew Gauvain and a header just over the bar off a free kick, Finn Sander served up a clever ball into the Somers end that Ryan Pickett got to and slid past Somers keeper Alex Geas to cut the lead to 2-1 with 12:40 left in the first half.
At that point the Cowboys appeared to be settled into the game and had tilted the field back in its favor, but the defending champs would respond.
"I don't think we did a good enough job of spreading them," Andrulis said. "We were really central with our attack a number of times and that allowed them to defend pretty easily. When we did get the ball out wide we were able to expose them a little bit and got some crosses and some good chances."
Litchfield goalie Zach Crane, who played a fine game despite the final score and made at least three highlight-reel diving stops, made a stellar save on Jake Alvaro to keep it at 2-1. But the Spartans were awarded a corner and added to the lead.
"We were energized after our goal and I felt we were hanging with them," Andrulis said. "We were able to generate a little bit in the firsy half, but we didn't do enough in the midfield to make a difference."
Kyle Laires took the corner and it was defelcted back to him inside the upper left corner of the box. He lofted a shot that appeared to be going high and wide left but it curved in and made it 3-1 with a little over four minutes left in the opening half.
The first goal of the second half was going to be key and it went to Somers just under 10 minutes in. Crane made a great save on a point blank blast but the rebound went to Jake Alvaro, who was finally able to put away a chance and make it 4-1.
The Spartans went on to add three more goals from there and while the game got a little chippy over the final 25 minutes - the Cowboys were issued three yellow cards nut probably deserved maybe two - cooler heads prevailed and Somers left the field Class S champs.
It wasn't the end of the run the Cowboys were looking for, but considering the lows it had recently overcome, their surge to the Class S final, it's first final appearance since 1975, is some accomplishment.
"Getting here is so tough in the first place and how we got here, dug deep, an up and down year, it was a great run," Andrulis said. "We beat four quality opponents and I know they are hurting now, but tomorrow and in the coming days they will be able to look back and see they really accomplished something to be proud of."
The Cowboys certainly did considering entering the tournament it would have surprised no one to see them go one-and-done.
"We finished the regular season 7-6-2 with a lot of question marks about our character and our ability to play with the best teams in the state and we came out and we put it all together and got here," Andrulis said. "That's something that is pretty special.
The special run began with Litchfield seeded 19th and a matchup with rival Wamogo in the first round. A 3-1 victory over Wamogo led to a meeting with a game at No. 3 Old Lyme and the Cowboys pulled out a 2-1 victory. A 4-2 victory at East Granby in the quarters was followed by a 1-0 triumph over No. 2 Valley Regional in the semifinals and a shot at a first state title in 48 years (1963).
"It was an amazing run, after we beat Old Lyme we knew we had a chance for something great," Crane said. "I'll remember that we were a team that had some of the worst downs a team could have but we played to prove ourselves and we made a great run to the state championship."