Cowboys on to the semi-finals in Class S action thanks to a 4-1 win over Immaculate behind Donovan and Shanks.
TORRINGTON: Their chemistry is astounding. Their footwork, a thing of beauty. Their objective, one game closer to reality.
Senior Charlie Shanks and sophomore Timmy Donovan and the Litchfield Cowboys soccer team are just two wins away from taking home the ultimate prize, a state championship, after a stirring 4-1 dismantling of Immaculate on Saturday at the Robert H Frost Complex at Torrington High School.
Donovan scored three time and set up Shanks for his team’s final goal in a win that puts the Cowboys into the semifinals against a familiar foe in the Class S State Tournament on Wednesday at a time and place to be determined.
The foe? Old Saybrook, a team Litchfield has faced twice in the last three years in the state tournament quarterfinals with each team winning once.
“We beat them (Old Saybrook) down at their place to get to the semi-finals in 2015,” head coach Rob Andrulis said. “Last year, we lost to them 1-0, down there in the quarterfinals.”
So, this year, the two squads who know each other very well will face off with a chance to make it to the Class S Finals which are scheduled to be held on Saturday, November 17.
Against the Mustangs, who came in the No 23 seed with a 7-8-1 mark, the Cowboys dominated from the start thanks to a style of play by the visitors that suited the Berkshire League co-champions just fine.
“I told the guys before the game,” Andrulis said. “That from what I saw on tape, they were not going to come challenge us at the point of attack, they were going to give us space and fall back. I told Charlie (Shanks) and Timmy (Donovan) that if they did that, attack.”
Giving those two players space was a dream for the Cowboys and proved to be a nightmare for the visitors.
Just ninety seconds in, Donovan unleashed a bullet that just missed it’s mark on a curling left footed shot that would have been a thing of beauty if it had connected.
Not to worry though, the No 2 seed would get and take advantage of many more chances before this one was over.
Litchfield scored their first goal after a mental error by the Mustangs when an Immaculate defender kicked a ball that was heading over the end line and would have resulted in a goal kick out of bounds instead.
Off a terrific throw in, Donovan made one of those attempts that showed you just how special a player he is by curling a left footed shot into the top left side of the visitor’s goal for a 1-0 lead with 28:09 left in the first half.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys played hard-nosed, smart defense, anchored by goalie Colby Bunnell in the net and defenders who slowed a pair of speedy Mustangs.
The Cowboys used a hustle play to set up their second goal, the second for Donovan, ten minutes later.
On a ball that was contested by players from both teams, Litchfield’s Aidan Donohue shielded the Mustangs defender, assuring the throw in would be taken by his team. A little thing that led to big things as Donovan took the ensuing throw in and perfectly placed a header past the Immaculate goalie for a 2-0 lead.
There isn’t much Donovan can’t do once he gets near the ball, regardless of how many players are around him which is usually two or three.
Litchfield would get three or four more chances before the first half ended and their head coach knew a fast start in the second half might make all the difference in the world.
“I told them at halftime,” Andrulis said. “That if we got another one in the first ten minutes, this one was over.”
It would take just over nine minutes for the head coach to get his wish, with Donovan completing the hat trick with an absolute bullet, this time with his right foot for the 3-0 lead.
Donovan, remember, he’s just a sophomore, scored his 30th goal on Saturday evening, a new school record, eclipsing Litchfield great Matt Hula’s record of 27.
Shanks, who dominates wherever he is on the field, had chances throughout this one but had just missed until he got a little help from his teammate who he has helped all year.
Off a great heal pass from Donovan that caught Shanks mid stride, the senior standout blasted his teams fourth goal home for a 4-0 lead.
The Mustangs would get on the scoreboard with 7:30 to go on a shot by junior Quinn Guth that rolled past Bunnell on a broken play near the Litchfield net.
By then though, the horses, or Mustangs in this case, where actually back in the barn, not out.
So, on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined, two teams who have given each other headaches over the last two meetings, will meet with one of them heading to the Class S State Championship game a week from today.