Litchfield boys soccer star Tim Donovan shattering records and he's just a junior.
LITCHFIELD – First it was the bucolic green that sits in the Milton section of Litchfield. Then it was the barn door. For the past three seasons it has been Litchfield High’s soccer opponents. Timmy Donovan has just flat out overwhelmed and overpowered them all.
First the green. Donovan scuffed up more than a few spots on the natural carpet there during his early soccer years pounding a ball into a small net. Then and during the same time he beat up the old homestead barn door with a relentless barrage of heavy artillery coming off his feet that sounded like a never-ending carpet-bombing attack.
Ask the rest of the Berkshire League how effective all of that prep work was. The numbers will give you a pretty good hint. In a school with a solid soccer pedigree, Donovan became the all-time leading scorer this past season, scoring 36 goals to give him 78 for his career, breaking the old mark of 64 set by Alex Hula in 2007.
And ponder this – Donovan is a junior. Yeah, roll that thought around the medulla la bit and let it take root. Already with honors and record book numbers that most players can’t fathom with one more season left to torture the other side and more than a realistic chance to get into triple digits for goals. Side note - all incumbent on whether he chooses to remain a Cowboy.
The top vote-getter on the Berkshire League All-Star team, Donovan also has earned All-New England honors becoming the first Litchfield player since John Novajowsky more than 40 years ago to earn that distinction.
Then there is the ultimate – ALL-AMERICAN honors. Donovan was notified by Litchfield High coach Rob Andrulis of the honor in late November. It is believed he is the first Litchfield player and possibly first Berkshire League player to ever achieve the lofty status. The honor, which comes from the United Coaches Association and included 72 players nation-wide, doesn’t get any greater and the feeling doesn’t get any better.
“This is something I’ll never forget, its’ really special,” said Donovan after being presented a soccer ball from Litchfield High coach Rob Andrulis with all his honors inscribed on it in a recent ceremony. “I never thought about being All-American. I went to the All-State banquet last year and watched the All-Americans walk up to be honored and said, “Oh wow.” This is something I’ve worked for all my life and there is no better feeling.”
Donovan is not surprised at success; the signs were there. But the level of success? The honors fueled by seasons of 12, 30 and 36 goals- well, it is all a bit more than imagined.
“I had 30 goals in 8th grade but I thought that was a middle school thing,” said Donovan. “I wasn’t expecting to be here. My freshman year I proved to myself I was more than capable of scoring goals on a bigger stage but maybe not this many. It is a very big accomplishment. It’s a product of the hard work I’ve put in. But everybody talks about `Timmy’s record’ and it is not all me. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and coaches.”
There is a special shout out for former All-State running mate Charlie Shanks who graduated a year ago and recently completed a year of prep school at Taft.
“Charlie is one of my best friends and supplied me with a lot of passes,” said Donovan. “He is one of a kind. He taught me about soccer and made me a better person.”
Northwestern Regional coach Andy Campbell didn’t need a whole lot of time or words to tell us what we’ve been seeing with Donovan – “He’s the real deal.”
Nor does Andrulis – “He’s going places. Some of the stuff he does with moves and positioning is beyond his age.”
While where Donovan is going is a mystery at this point, it is an unknown that has to share time with when he is going. Colleges like Quinnipiac, Fairfield, Bryant, Northeastern and Pennsylvania are in the mix. However, prep school, possibly next year, is looking more likely and Donovan quickly reels off Choate, Avon, Loomis Chaffee and Taft as serious considerations.
“I’m considering (prep school), I think prep school offers a lot, but it is never easy to leave somewhere you have been all your life,” said Donovan. “It would be a huge change. I have to think about it more. “
There is also the possibility of an early college offer which could keep him a Cowboy for another year. Stay tuned on this one.
Donovan’s talent cannot be denied but it is infused with a heavy dose of passion. Donovan played all the other sports in the younger days – basketball, track and the rest. But it is soccer that caught his heart.
“I play tennis and as a kid basketball, track and I swam. But I didn’t feel the same way about soccer. I was passionate about it. I settled on that sport.”
At age five through a lot of his grammar school days he was out on that Milton green for three or four hours a day kicking a soccer ball in a 6x12 foot goals his parents bought him. “I was trying to perfect the art of goal scoring,” he remembers.
The Donovan’s just recently replaced the door in their front yard barn. A lot of the boards were broken or had holes in the thanks to the powerful assault from a soccer ball over the years. Dad says no charge for now, figuring those holes will be paid for by some college.
The game has been honed by play in the Farmington Soccer Association on the premier level. It has been a steady progression to the elite level. A level that is one-part head and one-part body.
“I know I’m not the fastest guy on the field, but I am very aware of my runs and where I am on the field and I practice my foot work more than anything else,” said Donovan. “It’s a lot of repetitions and touches on the ball.”
Andrulis sees a game honed by the passion and time spent perfecting it all.
“Some of the stuff Timmy does is ahead of his age in terms of moves and good positioning,” said Andrulis. “Good luck trying to shut him down. He reads the game but his mental game – he’s as tough as nails. He was constantly double and triple teamed, and we have good defenses in the Berkshire League. You can shut him down for almost 80 minutes and then he hurts you like at Thomaston where he scored two goals in the last three minutes. “
However, the ingredient that puts Donovan a step ahead and a step above his opponents comes from a different direction.
“He’s really good but what separates him from other guys that have been good is that he also has the size that colleges are looking for,” says Nonnewaug coach Toby Denman. “There have been guys good enough in our league to play Division I but not 5-foot-11, 170 pounds. He is not only the best player in our league but one of the biggest and strongest.”
“I’ve always been one of the taller players but if I have time, I spend it in the weight room,’ said Donovan. “I know that is a big aspect of it all. You can be gifted and talented but if you have no physicality you get pushed off the ball.”
Northwestern’s James Nelson plays against Donovan and is a teammate on the Farmington Soccer Association premier team. He would rather be on Donovan’s side.
“(Tim) is so dangerous, so adept at scoring goals,” said Nelson. “He can find the back of the net in the last third of the field. He is so strong. If you are battling him for the 50-50 balls he can score with his feet or just power through you.”
Put it all together and you have a play that still has Northwestern’s Campbell shaking his head months later.
“We were up 2-0 and Timmy wins a ball just past midfield. My two quality defenders come up to shut him down and he flicked the ball over the head of the first guy who is about 6-foot-2 and gets by him. He then poked the ball through the next guy’s legs. He did a swim move past him, one-touched the ball into the upper corner of the goal.”
In so many ways Donovan is a lot like any other high school junior. With and affable presence punctuated by an engaging smile, despite his soccer commitment he likes to go out to eat, hang with his friends and go to the movies. He likes his music (pre-game taste is Rap to zone in). He is National Honor Society with the books.
On the pitch, however, he is more of a loner. His talent is special and on a different level. There future is full of unlimited potential. What will be has you on the edge of your soccer seat. It can only be that way.
Simply because what has been is nothing short of three years of brilliance. Donovan has been that good and you get the idea that he is going to be a lot better. You can’t ignore or forget. You can only appreciate and applaud.