STRATFORD — Newtown High School’s boys’ soccer team saw its South-West Conference Tournament championship aspirations end in the title game the same way the team had kept its hopes alive in the tourney’s first round — via game-deciding penalty kicks following 100 minutes of scoreless soccer, which included a pair of ten-minute overtimes.
The second-seeded Nighthawks lost 1-0 (8-6 in PKs) to No. 5 Brookfield under the lights at Bunnell High School on October 30. For Newtown, it was a disappointing end to tourney run during which the team’s defense and goalkeeping didn’t allow a goal in 280 minutes of game play — a 1-0 (4-2 in PKs) win over Masuk of Monroe in the quarterfinals, and a 2-0 regulation win over Pomperaug of Southbury in the semifinals, followed by the championship game heart-breaker.
Brookfield, which upset top-seeded Joel Barlow of Redding in a round of PKs in the semifinals, overcame the Nighthawks despite giving them new life in the round of penalty kicks. Brookfield goalkeeper Tommy Burkhart stopped Newtown’s third shooter, Logan Puleri, but Puleri was awarded a second chance because officials rules Burkhart made an illegal movement during the initial kick. Puleri scored on his second try, tying the best-of-five round at two goals apiece. The first round of five finished in a 4-4 deadlock, forcing a second round. Burkhart made a save and benefited from a shot going wide and the Bobcats locked up the win on Sahill Quaisar’s ninth-round net-finder.
Newtown goalkeeper Eli Krorczyk came up with a clutch diving save in the first round of kicks but couldn’t get his hands on enough of Brookfield’s well-placed blasts.
In addition to Puleri, teammates Matt Mossbarger, Grant Ricketts, Blake Jarvis, Michael Cook, and Clay Gattey all scored.
Burkhart made seven saves during regulation, and Klorczyk made three stops then came up with another in the second OT. Newtown passed the ball well and generated more chances than the Bobcats but couldn’t muster many in-close scoring chances.
The Nighthawks advanced to the title game behind second-half goals by Charlie Poarch and Gattey against Pomperaug on October 28. Poarch’s net-finder was assisted by Brenton Scott. Pomperaug was the No. 3 seed and wound up hosting the semifinal contest because the Southbury school was selected as the neutral site for that round of the tournament.
Newtown had prevailed in a round of penalty kicks to defeat visiting and seventh-seeded Masuk of Monroe in a thrilling quarterfinal round game under the lights at Blue & Gold Stadium on a chilly October 26 evening.
Klorczyk, largely untested throughout game play because of Newtown’s overall dominance in ball possession and offensive pressure, came up with a diving save on the first shot of the best-of-five round of PKs, and benefited from a second-round blast clanking off the crossbar. Scott, Mossbarger, Puleri, and Ricketts all hit the back of the net with Ricketts’ fourth-round tally sealing the win.
In the Masuk game, Newtown finished regulation and overtime with a decisive advantage in shots directed at the goal — 26-7 — and Masuk goalkeeper Neil McCarter had to come up with nine saves to keep things scoreless; Klorczyk had two stops. The visiting Panthers nearly ended things in the second overtime but a scoring chance by Lucas Teixeira banged the post, creating a sigh of relief on the Newtown bench, as well as in the packed stadium stands. Teixeira also hit the crossbar during the round of PKs, and Tre Bonaparte was robbed by Klorczyk.
Newtown nearly won it in regulation. McCarter made a leaping save on a long shot from Newtown’s Nate Kalra from the right side, with five-plus minutes left in the second half. Kalra, Jarvis, Gattey, Mossbarger, Ricketts, and Scott all generated scoring chances. Newtown’s pin-point, quick passing enabled the home team to keep control of the ball throughout most of the game, but nothing got resolved despite the pile-up of chances, until the nerve-wracking round of penalty kicks — Newtown’s enemy in recent years. The Nighthawks have suffered some hard-to-swallow PK setbacks in tourney games in past seasons, including an SWC quarterfinal round exit at the hands of Pomperaug a year ago.
“You hate for it to end in PKs — it was a good game; Masuk came to play,” Newtown Coach Brian Neumeyer said following the tourney opener.
The Hawks got solid defensive play from, among others, Puleri, James Cochrane, Wesley Morlock, Matt Baldino, Mossbarger, and Scott throughout the conference tourney. Newtown will look to bounce back in state tournament which gets underway in early November.