Morgan and Old Saybrook Share Shoreline Title
The Morgan boys’ soccer team shared the Shoreline Conference title with Old Saybrook after the two sides battled to a 2-2 tie in the league final at the Indian River Complex on Nov. 8. The Huskies and Rams have faced each other several times throughout the past few years with each squad coming out on top at different points. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
The Old Saybrook boys’ soccer squad staked its claim to the Shoreline Conference Tournament crown after battling Morgan to a 2-2 draw in a back-and-forth championship matchup at the Indian River Complex. This game marked the last time that these rivals will play each other this season since they are in different classes for states. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
The Morgan boys’ soccer team and the Old Saybrook boys’ soccer squad were named co-champions of the Shoreline Conference Tournament last week. The top-seeded Huskies and the No. 3 seed Rams battled through 110 minutes of back and forth play on a cold, Nov. 7 evening at the Indian River Complex, and finished in a 2-2 tie. Earlier in the week, Old Saybrook defeated No. 2 seed Coginchaug by the score of 3-0 and Morgan beat No. 4 seed Portland 3-1 in semifinal match ups.
Over the past few years, both these teams have crossed each others’ paths and battled for postseason preeminence several times in huge contests. In 2016, the Rams claimed the Shoreline Conference crown over the Huskies, and in 2017, Morgan defeated Old Saybrook in the Shoreline semis en route to a Shoreline crown shared with Haddam-Killingworth. After the 2017 Shoreline tourney, the two squads met in the Class S State Tournament semifinals and Morgan took the game via penalty kicks after regulation and two overtime periods to move onto an eventual state title. In 2018, Morgan and Old Saybrook met again in the Shoreline semis, and the Huskies defeated the Rams to advance to the Shoreline final and ultimately took the crown outright that year. After that the two teams met up in the Class S State Tournament final, and Old Saybrook claimed the state championship in a 2-1 victory.
This year, these two teams cannot meet in states as Morgan will play in Class M, while the Rams are still in the Class S bracket. So this final marked the last meeting of these two teams this season, and in a way, the tie seemed fitting for the two Shoreline rivals. Especially since this will be Head Coach Sam Barnes’s last season coaching for Old Saybrook. Morgan Head Coach Ross Demay thought if it had to be a tie, it makes sense that the Rams and Huskies were the ones to knot it up.
“This time it was a fight back and forth. It’s kind of a fitting way to end the run with Sam,” said Coach Demay. “As much as it’s tough to take a tie, it is our third Shoreline title in a row, and it is a fitting way for us to finish up.”
There was a lot of end-to-end action throughout the contest between both teams, and each team even had a one-on-one shot against the opposing keeper with a penalty kick. Old Saybrook got its chance early due to a handball called in the box with 18 minutes left in the first half. The Rams’ PK sailed high of the goal and the score remained 0-0 at the end of the first half.
In the second half, Old Saybrook took a 1-0 lead when senior Colin Schulmeister scored off an assist from Gannon Efinger less than a minute into the period. Morgan kept up the pressure with a couple of corner kicks in the next five minutes, with junior goalie Matt Rothman making some key stops during the onslaught. Eventually, senior Zach Tuccitto scored the equalizing goal 10:25 into the second half and made it 1-1.
Each team had its chances as the clock wound down on regulation, but neither Morgan nor Old Saybrook could capitalize to take the lead. So with two 15 minute overtime periods declared with no winner after 80 minutes, the two Shoreline rivals played on.
At 2:47 into the first overtime period, Tuccitto was awarded a penalty kick after getting taken down in the box on an offensive chance. The senior sprung into his run-up as soon as the whistle blew and stung the ball into the back of the net to take a 2-1 lead that would stand through the first OT frame. Then with 7:54 left in the second overtime period, senior captain Colin Schulmeister scored the equalizer off a helper from fellow senior captain Shon Ryan.
Coach Barnes would have loved to pull in another finals win for the Rams, but he knew that both these teams have been battling each other so hard these past few seasons, it made perfect sense for his tenure with the team to end with a draw, despite some missed chances in the match.
“It was evenly matched. It could have gone either way. We missed that PK in the beginning and so we could have been up 2-0, and I think it would have been a whole different game,” Barnes said. “We came out second half and got that goal a little early. We got complacent, and they got back. Then we were down and fought back. Both goalies had great games, it was a great matchup.”
For Old Saybrook, several players got into the stat sheet with Schulmeister and Luciani notching goals and Efinger and Ryan supplying assists. As for the Huskies, Tuccitto was their main scoring threat with a pair of goals to his credit.
As for why these teams seem to play each other so hard and so often, Coach Demay thought it was a healthy rivalry spawned from his moving to Morgan from Barnes’s coaching tree. The fact that the Huskies and Rams have met in so many huge games with each squad taking big victories during that stint also played a big part in stoking the flames.
“Probably started when I moved here after coaching with Sam forever. A few of the kids play premier together. I think it’s a big part of it,” said Coach Demay. “It’s that, and the fact that it’s always a battle. We always had to overcome them every time to win a championship. We had to beat them twice in semis in 2017. We’ve seen them three times in the semis and took them all. This is our sixth time in three years in playoff games.”
Coach Barnes also admits that the two teams have bumped heads several times and maintains that on the biggest stage, his Rams have come up huge.
“We are evenly matched, but that’s the last time we’ll see each other. A few years back we won this game 2-1,” said Barnes. “We saw them twice in states in the last couple of years, but funnily enough, we’ve never lost to them in the finals. When we played them in the finals, whether that be in the Shorelines or states, Saybrook never lost.”
Next up, both teams are competing in their respective state tournaments. The 5th-seeded Rams hosted No. 28 seed Westbrook in the first round of the Class S bracket on Nov. 11 (after press time). A win in that contest would pit the Rams against the victor of No. 12 seed Wheeler and No. 21 seed Coventry on Nov. 13 (after press time).
Morgan is the No. 8 seed in the Class M State Tournament and hosted No. 25 seed Ansonia on Nov. 11 (after press time) for a first-round game. A victory there would give Morgan another home game against the winner of No. 9 seed Watertown and No. 24 seed Goodwin Tech in the second round on Nov. 13 (after press time).
In the end, since these two rivals could not play again, Coach Demay offered that the co-title with Old Saybrook made for a poetic end to their mutual rivalry and respect for each other.
“It’s a fitting end I guess you could say between us,” Demay said. “I coached with Sam for eight years, and seven years later, we see them for the last time as co-champs.”
• The Old Saybrook boys’ soccer team’s roster features senior captains Luke Hanratty, Cooper Luciani, Shon Ryan, and Colin Schulmeister; seniors Jonathan Barnes, Luke Brodeur, Jack Colella, Cody DeAngelo, Gino Gallitto, Garrett Hilger, Logan Hilger, Griffin Noack, Ben O’Dell, Ryan Powers, and Jayson Rankin; juniors Seth Adams, Avery Appiah, Zack Coty, Gannon Efinger, Carter Gibson, Gershon Jara, Trey Martin, William Perralta, and Matt Rothman; and sophomore Nicholas Rothman.
• The Morgan boys’ soccer squad’s roster includes senior captains Alex Kadloff and Zach Tuccitto; seniors Justin Castro, Andrew Daly, Josh Kennedy, Nate Rice, Nick Rubino, and Ethan Tessman; juniors Evan Baptiste, Sean Cafferty, Justin King, Michael Monty, Manuel Romero, Sebastian Selgar, and Max Skidmore; sophomores Alex Gallardo, Bailey Goss, Aidan Madura, Ethan Madura, and Tyler Mucha; and freshmen Erik Berrera, Nicholas Boudreau, Luke Gagliardi, Sebastian Kadloff, Matthew Lopez, and Abel Rodriguez.