The Morgan boys’ soccer team was crowned co-champion of the Shoreline Conference Tournament with Haddam-Killingworth after the two teams played to a 1-1 draw in the championship game at Portland High School on Nov. 4. To reach the final, the Huskies posted a 2-0 semifinal road victory over defending conference champion Old Saybrook, a squad that went 16-0 during the regular season. Morgan’s record currently stands at 14-3-2 as it gets ready to play in the Class S Tournament.
Morgan had made it to the Shoreline final in each of the two preceding seasons, but was unable to secure a championship. Now, the Huskies have the title they wanted, and senior captain Tyler Newfield is happy to finally to say that he and his teammates are champions after all their hard work.
“It feels great being champion after getting there the past two years,” Newfield said. “Finally, being a champion is just great, getting the banner, getting the trophy.”
It wasn’t easy, though. The match against Haddam-Killingworth was a very tough and physical game, according to Morgan Head Coach Ross Demay.
“It was a dogfight. No other way to put it,” said Coach Demay. “Very physical and got chippy at times. It was very back and forth.”
There was little margin for error in the Shoreline final, and the game started with a huge heads-up play by Newfield to set that tone. During the opening minutes, the Cougars took the ball upfield and had a chance at the goal. The ball came off Morgan goalkeeper Anes Gadun and, acting on instinct, Newfield sprinted to back up his teammate and slid to stop the ball a foot from the goal line. The play prevented a sure goal for H-K, and Coach Demay believes the Huskies would have lost the match if not for that stop.
“That was our wakeup call,” Demay said. “Tyler really stepped up these last few games. He really became a great captain.”
It wasn’t until more than 30 minutes later that H-K put the first goal on the board as the Cougars scored in the 39th minute for a 1-0 advantage that held up at the end of the first half.
After intermission, the Huskies and Cougars kept battling hard with both teams getting plenty of opportunities. It was an end-to-end game that saw Morgan take 21 shots on goal, while H-K had 15. Finally, Morgan was able to break through with an equalizing goal from senior captain Juan Avila with 14 minutes left in regulation.
After full time, the game went to OT to try and settle the score. Following two 15-minute periods that saw a few chances from each side, Morgan and H-K ultimately had to settle for the 1-1 draw. Gadun had a strong showing with two of his seven saves coming in overtime.
Even though Coach Demay considers the co-championship a bit bittersweet, he’s still proud of his athletes for giving everything they had through the final seconds of the contest.
“To be honest, I think the guys are coming to terms with it better than me,” said Coach Demay. “They know they left everything on the field. They come off the field and barely can walk. They worked so hard out there. That’s all you can ask for.”
As the Huskies grinded on the field, they heard the cheers from their supporters in the stands. Avila believes the atmosphere that his team and its fans create is an important component to the Huskies’ success.
“All the fans, everybody that came out and supported us, it added up. The energy was just non-stop. We came out and fought hard. The whole entire team came together and worked for each other,” said Avila. “Before games we say ‘1-2-3 Morgan’ and ‘4-5-6 family,’ and we truly believe in that. We go out there and work for each other to get the outcome we want. Being a captain from sophomore year until, we became even closer from year to year.”
It was during these years that Old Saybrook became a thorn in Morgan’s side in its quest for a Shoreline championship. The Rams defeated Morgan in the 2016 conference final and then beat the Huskies twice during the recent regular season. This year, the two teams met in the Shoreline semis, and the Huskies were extremely motivated coming into the game, which they won 2-0.
“The fact that we haven’t been able to beat them for two years was something I kept in mind,” said Avila. “Losing in the regular season is one thing, but losing in the playoffs is different. Everyone played great that game. It was something you just can’t put into words. It was awesome.”
Morgan and Old Saybrook were even for the first half, coming out of it scoreless. In the second half, Avila scored off a helper from Calvin Jackson to go up 1-0. As Old Saybrook played more aggressive in the offensive zone, Matt Koziy scored an insurance goal from James Saturno. Gadun made two saves on Old Saybrook’s five shots to earn the shutout.
Even with the Shoreline championship secured, the Huskies may not have seen the last of Old Saybrook, as both teams are competing in the Class S State Tournament that begins this week. As the Morgan turns its attention to states, the team will rest up after its grueling stretch and stay focused on being ready for the next opponent, whoever it may be.
“We’re just telling everyone to be focused,” said Newfield. “You have to play hard and get juiced up. You have to be ready at any time because that could be the last game of the season.”
From the Sidelines
The Morgan boys’ soccer team’s wins this season have come against East Hampton (7-1, 4-1), Old Lyme (5-0), North Branford (5-0), Portland (4-0), Cromwell (3-1, 3-1, and 6-1 in the Shoreline quarterfinals), Hale-Ray (6-0), Coginchaug (5-1), Westbrook (4-0), Norwich Free Academy (3-2), East Lyme (2-0), and Old Saybrook (2-0 in the Shoreline final).
Morgan and Haddam-Killingworth also played to a 1-1 tie during the regular season.