Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sports

H-K Boys’ Soccer Flipped the Script on the Pitch

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Senior captain Colby Whitehead (left) and the H-K boys’ soccer squad saw a huge turnaround in 2020 by claiming the Shoreline Conference title just one year after going 2-14. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Senior captain Colby Whitehead (left) and the H-K boys’ soccer squad saw a huge turnaround in 2020 by claiming the Shoreline Conference title just one year after going 2-14. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

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Junior captain Ben Williams garnered All-Shoreline Conference Second Team recognition after recording six goals and eight assists for the Cougars this past fall. 

File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Junior captain Ben Williams garnered All-Shoreline Conference Second Team recognition after recording six goals and eight assists for the Cougars this past fall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

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Cole Merriam (right) had a big freshman season with the H-K boys’ soccer team,  netting seven goals, including the lone score of the Cougars’ 1-0 win versus East Hampton in the Shoreline Conference title game. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Cole Merriam (right) had a big freshman season with the H-K boys’ soccer team, netting seven goals, including the lone score of the Cougars’ 1-0 win versus East Hampton in the Shoreline Conference title game. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

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Senior Alexander Blair finished off his career with H-K boys’ soccer by earning All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention for the 2020 campaign. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source

Senior Alexander Blair finished off his career with H-K boys’ soccer by earning All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention for the 2020 campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)

One of the most interesting local stories of 2020 came from Haddam- Killingworth High School, where the H-K boys’ soccer squad staked its claim to the Shoreline Conference title—just one year removed from a season in which the Cougars went 2-14.

Mike Mead’s debut campaign as H-K’s head coach saw the team flip from the script from 2019. The Cougars posted an overall record of 8-3-2 in 2020 and capped off a fall season like no other by earning 1-0 win versus East Hampton in the final of the Shoreline Conference Tournament.

“What a time to have my first year coaching. We should be prepared for anything going forward,” Coach Mead said. “You can’t put anything else on the season as a whole other than how much of a success it was. It showed how much hard work pays off and that the group of guys we had was something very special.”

Coach Mead attributed much of H-K’s success to the fact the Cougars played like a cohesive unit throughout the season. H-K didn’t have any player nominated beyond the All-Shoreline Conference Second Team, but Mead feels that just reinforces the fact that the Cougars succeeded through a complete team effort. Senior Colby Whitehead, a defender/midfielder, and junior midfielder Ben Williams led the charge for H-K as the team’s captains.

“It’s very difficult to narrow down a team like this to just a few guys. To have not one player nominated past Second Team All-Conference and walk out Shoreline champs shows how much of a team effort this season was,” said Mead. “Hats off to...captains Colby Whitehead and Ben Williams for believing in what [Assistant Coach Austin Boulay] and I were trying to do and for pushing, not only themselves, but everyone around them every single day to be better.”

Coach Mead felt that dealing with all of the COVID-19 safety protocols became more and more normal for his players as the season progressed. Still, Mead added that it was difficult to compete without having fans in the stands.

“I felt after a few weeks of getting used to all the precautions, it started to come naturally to everyone,” Mead said. “I think the ‘no fans’ will never feel normal, as you miss the extra energy from the parents and fans, especially at away games. But we got used to it and adapted, as we had a strong rotation and guys on the bench kept the energy going.”

Whitehead scored six goals to go with five assists on the year, while Williams finished the season with six goals and eight assists. Freshman Cole Merriam had an excellent debut campaign by scoring seven goals and handing out two assists for the Cougars, including the lone goal of the Shoreline Conference final. Senior goalie Cal Braren made seven saves in net in the victory.

Williams earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team recognition for H-K. Whitehead and fellow senior Alexander Blair, a defender, received All-Shoreline Conference Honorable Mention on behalf of Coach Mead’s club.

Mead said that he will always cherish that moment when the final whistle sounded and the Cougars walked off the field with the Shoreline title after defeating East Hampton in the conference final.

“It’s hard to sit here and say the moments after the final whistle in the Shoreline final game was not my favorite moment because, of course, it would probably be everyone’s,” said Mead. “Seeing the smile on those kids’ faces knowing what we had just accomplished after all our downs from the previous year was amazing, but again, with a team like this, it was more just the full development of our team on a weekly basis. We battled through injuries and a few tough losses, but regardless of any of that, there wasn’t a moment in the whole season that the kids didn’t think we weren’t going to make the finals.”

In addition to Whitehead, Williams, Merriam, Blair, and Braren, H-K’s roster featured seniors John Kowal, Timothy Carter, Nate Marchetti, and Niko Yepes; juniors Leevard Reddy, Isaac Barrera, Ryan Mucciaccaro, Jayden Zaitoun, and Aidan Law; sophomores Agostino Luzietti, Tyler Perry, Calvin Napoletano, Samuel Carter, and Jack Straka; and freshmen James Marchetti, Dylan Churky, Michael Broccoli, Luke Staskelunas, Luke Hedges, Benjamin Werner, John Paul Dowlin, Owen Staskelunas, Tyler Gagliardi, Ryan Ruggiero, and Andres Montes.

On the heels of a historic season, Coach Mead feels confident that H-K can put together another successful year in 2021. However, Mead knows that the Cougars will have to continue working hard in order to try and replace the void of a talented senior class.

“Next year is going to be a great test for myself, the underclassmen, and those we have returning. We are losing a lot and, as much as it seems irreplaceable, I believe those that watched our success this year will be hungry and want to be a part of what we have going on,” Mead said. “Ben Williams, Cole Merriam, Jayden Zaitoun, Isaac Barrera make up a strong core across multiple positions. Our motto this year was that ‘We can and we will compete with everyone that steps on the field with us,’ and we will have that same mentality going into next year.”




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