FARMINGTON – No state high school brackets can be any more unforgiving than those in the Class LL boys soccer tournament.
Defending champion Farmington, coming out of perhaps the state’s most competitive division – the CCC West – earned a sixth seed only to draw as rugged a .500 club as the state can muster in No. 27 New Britain.
The Indians faced the old “third time’s a curse” phobia after beating the Golden Hurricanes on Sept. 30 and again just two weeks ago at home in overtime after falling behind early by two goals.
Farmington coach Steve Waters anticipated a stiff challenge and got every bit of it until a late collaboration by seniors Dylan Papa and John Paul DiTomasso pulled the Indians through.
DiTomasso converted off Papa’s cross with just over a minute left in the second overtime Friday night as Farmington escaped with a 1-0 first-round victory at Tunxis Mead to gain a reprise of last year’s championship game.
Farmington (12-1-3) will host 11th-seeded Staples-Westport Monday. The Indians edged the Wreckers 2-1 last November to win their ninth state title. Staples turned back Manchester in its first-round encounter in Westport Friday.
Papa ran down a ball along the left sideline. His cross was perfectly spotted to DiTomasso in space about 12 yards directly in front of New Britain goalkeeper Krzysztof Chwatko. DiTomasso lobbed the shot over the keeper's desperate leap.
Waters cited his team’s determination to fight through two forgettable halves in regular time and persevere.
“I would say the word determination was the key in that overtime for us,” Waters said. “New Britain’s a solid team with quality players and for us to come out with three wins on them in the season is surprising. They were a team in our conference that was knocking at everybody’s door when they were healthy.”
DiTomasso had ulterior motives in setting himself for Papa’s special delivery.
“I was trying to line up for a rebound or deflection to potentially tap one in but the ball came perfectly to me and I felt the need to hit it so I did,” DiTomasso said. “It had a lot of spin on it and that definitely helped it to go in.”
The clock at Al Bell Field read 1:12. If the game hadn’t been decided in 80 minutes of regular time and the two 10-minute sets of extra time, the foreboding process of penalty kicks would have been employed to break the tie.
“We talked before the overtime periods and we were saying that since it’s the senior year for most of us, we want to go out with a bang. We don’t want to go home first round. We said we had to make it happen. PKs are too risky,” DiTomasso said.
DiTomasso had plenty of space to line up the game-winner, but New Britain coach Matt Denecour had high praise for his defense.
“I look at it as a mishap,” said Denecour, whose team qualified for the postseason for the first time in three seasons. “The ball came flying out to [DiTomasso] in midair. He mishit it, the ball was spinning and [Chwatko] missed it. It wasn’t really a defensive breakdown at all. They were throwing everything at us and we were defensively pretty solid.”
When the teams played on the same field on Oct. 28, New Britain (6-7-4) scored two quick goals before Farmington took the game over and won it in overtime, 3-2. This time, the Hurricanes sustained their offensive thrust throughout regulation. Play was even through the first 80- minutes with Farmington enjoying a 12-9 edge in shots but New Britain having better chances.
That’s where Farmington keeper Austin Peluso loomed large.
“He’s making saves that I didn’t think a goalkeeper could,” Waters said.
Peluso’s biggest save came in the 50th minute when New Britain forward Edin Duric angled in alone on the right post. He also turned away a free kick by the Hurricanes’ stellar midfield Sebastian Stezewski and stuffed the rebound four minutes earlier.
Peluso has 11 shutouts on the season.
Farmington completely dominated both extra sessions, generating seven shots to none for the Hurricanes.
DiTomasso made a bid to break the scoreless tie in the 87th minute when he fired toward the right corner only to have New Britain’s energetic midfielder Muhamed Alwishah slide in for the save.
Peter Wilbik tried to set up DiTomasso in the waning seconds of the first overtime with some picturesque moves along the end line to the left of goal but it went for naught.
Waters lauded the effort of senior central defender Julian Rose, who turned in a seamless effort in the back.
“The back guys were under extreme pressure the whole game,” Waters said.
Farmington 1, New Britain 0 (OT)
New Britain (6-7-4) 0 0 0 0 – 0
Farmington (12-1-3) 0 0 0 1 – 1
Second overtime – F, John Paul DiTomasso (Dylan Papa), 99th minute.
Saves – NB, Krzysztof Chwatko 6; F, Austin Peluso 6. Shots – F, 19-9. Corner kicks – NB, 3-2.