Local Fall Teams Being Tested, Finding Success. By John Nestor
The Fall season is in full swing and things are sorting themselves out. Good teams are seperating themselves from the pack and others are finding their own level in league standings.
Each season provides every team with its own set of unique circumstances. Expectations differ from program to program, goals will be adjusted accordingly but you'll be hard pressed to find any team that doesn't want to improve each time out and build toward being a winning program.
Some programs have further to go than others to reach success, but that journey is often times what being an athlete and playing a sport is all about. Facing tests and distractions head on comes with the territory and some local teams are overcoming different levels of adversity quite well while others are showing that they are growing in positive ways.
The Torrington High School football team turned in quite a performance Saturday morning when it knocked off defending Class S state champion Holy Cross, 24-21.
The win came thanks to a huge final drive engineered by freshman quarterback Connor Finn that led to a 20-yard game-winning field goal by sophomore PJ Killmartin on the game's final play.
The Red Raiders were 0-2 entering the game and had to juggle the lineup with at least three usual starters out of the game. Sources tell L.C.S. that a hazing incident involving Torrington football players may result in suspensions.
"We made some mistakes during the week that I think that our kid have learned from," Torrington coach Dan Dunaj said. "I think that they realize that when they come together as a football family there is nothing they can't accomplish."
Finn threw a touchdown pass to Edgar Gonzalez in the first half to help Torrington build a 14-0 lead. Joan Toribio added a pair of rushing TDs to give the Red Raiders a 21-14 lead at the break.
"Connor did a great job, he managed the game just like we had hoped," Dunaj said. "He did everything we had coached him during the week to do."
Torrington started the season with a loss to Ansonia, and there is no shame in that. The hard part was that the Red Raiders blew a 20-0 lead in a loss at Wolcott in weeks 2 and then the behind the scenes distractions leading up to the Holy Cross game. But Torrington was able to put the distractions aside and focus on the task at hand - earning its first win of the season.
"We knew we had to come out hard and finish the game. We didn't finish at Wolcott," Toribio said. "That loss hurt us. Today we just wanted it more."
The Red Raiders didn't score in the second half until their final drive, which started at their own 13 with four minutes to play. It was a total team drive with contributions from up and down the roster. Devone Thomas has a couple tough runs while Gonzalez hit Desmond Langs on a halfback pass after a timeout to move into Holy Cross territory.
Finn hit fellow freshman Nate Bresson for a key third-down conversion and the Killmartin converted for one of the more dramatic wins in recent Torrington history.
"During the drive I was just thinking have to make this field goal, I was just focusing on that," Killmartin said. "I had a lot of nerves but when it went through it felt great."
It felt great for Finn as well, who was making his first varsity start and handled the job well.
"I was very nervous. I knew the game was going to be faster but I also knew my teammates would help me through it," Finn said. "The big run by Joan was relaxing and I knew then everyone was going to do what they had to do. The line did a great job, everyone came together. We wanted it."
Berkshire League Girls Soccer -
With wins over defending Berkshire League champion Nonnewaug and front-runner Litchfield included in its 6-0 start, it looked like the Lewis Mills girls soccer team was going to run and hide this year but that all changed Monday.
Facing the prospect of falling three games behind Mills in the BL standings, Nonnewaug posted a 1-0 victory over Mills on a goal off a corner kick by senior captain Hailey Lehning in the second half.
The Chiefs and Spartans have now already played both of their regular season matchups and have split the season series, scoring three goals each in the two games. Lewis Mills won the first meeting, 3-2, in Burlington on Sept. 21.
Nonnewaug (5-2) still has work to do. They remain a game behind Mills, who beat Litchfield, 3-1, on Sept. 25, and will look to avenge a season-opening loss to the Cowgirls when the teams meet in Woodbury on Thursday. Lewis Mills is at Litchfield on Oct. 29 in the regular-season finale for both teams in what could be a BL title match.
"For the neutral it keeps it exciting," said Lewis Mills coach Jason Stock, who jokingly failed to see the excitement of having the Chiefs back in the league race along with Mills and Litchfield.
While Thursday's match between Litchfield and Nonnewaug is an important one, it will also be interesting to see how the Spartans respond to their first loss of the season. Lehning's goal came about midway through the second half and marked the first time Lewis Mills had been trailing all season. Stock liked what he saw out of his team Monday after they fell behind and expects them to respond well.
"We have a great group of girls, when they went down they showed me that they have that bounce back ability, that resilience," Stock said. "It will show their mental toughness and their strength of character and I don't think they'll have any problem bouncing back from this."
Torrington Boys Soccer -
The Red Raiders are one of the top teams in the NVL so far this season at 6-1 and trail only Watertown and Naugatuck - both 6-0-1 - in the league standings. Torrington started a busy week on Monday with a 5-0 thrashing of Derby. The Raiders host Wolcott on Wednesday before a key NVL showdown at Watertown on Friday.
Torrington is on a four-game win streek and has outscored its last three opponents 15-1. On the season the Raiders have scored 26 goals in six games and that has been the biggest difference from a year ago. Torrington was in a lot of games last season but ended up losing a number of one-goal heartbreakers. This year, the Raiders are finding the back of the net quite often and the wins are piling up.
Coach Mike Fritch credits the improved offense to experience and likes the position his team is in as it approached the halfway mark of the season.
"We have a lot of kids back and they know what to expect and how to play with each other," Fritch said. "I like where we are as a team, we are playing well and want to show that we are back and will be a force in the league."
Helping the Red Raiders establish themselves as one of the front-runners in the NVL has been senior Jairo Borja, who has created a number of scoring chances for teammates as well as himself to start the season. Goals are great, but Fritch says that Borja's emergence as a leader has been just as important.
"We talked about things in the offseason, things he could do to be a leader on the team, especially as a senior," Fritch said. "He's done a good job, not just scoring but also embracing that leadership role."
Wolcott Tech Boys Soccer -
The Wildcats are off to a blazing 7-1 start after their recent 2-0 victory over Kaynor Tech.
Dan Diaz scored two goals against Kaynor Tech to help Wolcott Tech to its sixth straight victory. The Wildcats are tied for second place in the CSC with Abbott Tech, one game behind league-leading Windham Tech.
Nonnewaug Football -
It had been nearly four years since Nonnewaugh High won a football game but that long wait came to an end Saturday.
The Chiefs had to wait until the game's final play before they could breathe easy and celebrate an 8-7 victory over East Hampton/Vinal Tech. The win was Nonnewaug's first victory since Dec. 20, 2008.
After a late turnover by the Chiefs, East Hampton/Vinal Tech got one more chance and drove down into Nonnewaug territory. T.J. Meyer then saved the day as he blocked East Hampton/Vinal Tech's field goal attempt as time expired.
A three-yard TD run by Nick Bordierre in the fourth quarter and a two-point conversion pass from Christian Metallo to Nick Uberti gave the Chiefs (1-2) the lead.