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Raiders boys soccer finds their moxie in 5-4 OT loss to Bunnell.

POSTED November 04, 2017
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: Let's take a look at how the early part of the Torrington boys' soccer team Class L State Tournament qualifying game against Bunnell went.

Heck, let's go four minutes before introductions t when starting goalie, Kevin Hidrovo suffered a dislocated thumb during warmups, forcing his teammate who had been out with a concussion for two weeks to step in minutes later with zero time to prepare.

Forty minutes later, the Raiders found themselves down 4-0 and forty minutes from the end of the 2017 campaign and who knew what the final score might have been?

It was disheartening as fans watched back-up goalie Wilson Penaranda fight admirably even as he was being peppered with tough shot after tough shot with four of them finding the back of the net in the first half.

Considering the way the Raiders season ended, with a 1-3-2 mark down the stretch that left them with a disappointing 6-7-3 mark, it appeared that their last game would give them no satisfaction either.

But then something remarkable happened on a chilly fall night.

The Raiders found hope and found the back of the net not once, or twice or even three times.

They came all the way back to tie the game up with barely 120 ticks left on the clock in the second half and even though they fell in overtime to the Bulldogs by a 5-4 final, something pretty terrific had happened that the Raiders coaching staff hopes they can build on.

"For the first time this season," head coach Mike Fritch said. "We didn't hang our head after getting down at home."

In the second forty minutes, Penaranda pitched a shutout as his teammates put enormous pressure on the Bunnell defense, led by senior Naseem Thompson, who got the comeback started with a goal at the 34:21 mark.

"We just had to get our heads back on straight," Thompson said. "We got our passing game going and found our rhythm."

Seven minutes later, sophomore Xavier Rodas, one of the up and coming Raiders, found the back of the net off a play started by Thompson.

The senior striker made a run down the sideline and put a cross in the middle of the box towards fellow senior Jacob Pestritto who had his shot blocked right to Rodas who rifled it past the Bulldogs goalie and the lead was cut in half with plenty of time to go.

Torrington clearly had the momentum and the Bulldogs on their heels and took advantage with 15 minutes left in regulation.

Off a free kick from the 40-yard line, senior Alex Segovia sent a beautiful ball towards the goal and his teammate, Thompson who redirected it perfectly with his head for the third goal.

Could it be that a team that had lost their starting goalie minutes before the game and went down four goals by the half had enough moxie in them to come all the way back?

Time at this point was not on the Raiders side though, as the seconds and minutes ticked away.

The Bulldogs did what any team would do when the tide was rushing in at breakneck speed by slowing down the pace and substituting often, trying anything to get those digits down to 0:00 but the Raiders had one more miracle upcoming.

After a heavy, heavy dose of pressure from the Raiders that led to a cross that was punched out by the Bulldogs keeper, the ball bounced right to Segovia who unleashed a bomb from 20-yards out that found the back of the net for a tie with just 1:59 to play in regulation.

Now, not all fairy tales have happy endings and sure enough, just three minutes into the first ten-minute session, Jesse Clark scored his third goal of the night off a direct kick and the visitors held on for the win.

Even in defeat though, the silver lining was long and bright for the Raiders who are still very young.

"I had eight underclassmen on the field tonight," Fritch said. "I think it was a great learning experience for us. Six seasons ago, we got pummeled by this very same team and it turned out to be a turning point for us over the next few years. I'm hoping it has the same effect this time around."

During that 2011 State Tournament, the Bulldogs beat up on the Raiders by a 4-0 final in a first round game on their way to the eventual Class L State Championship.

This time around though, the Raiders found something they had been looking for all season and now that they have found it, let's hope they can hold onto it going into 2018.

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