The Shelton High boys soccer team found out on short notice that its run in the Class LL state tournament would continue after its semifinal opponent, Danbury High, was disqualified on Friday.
On Saturday afternoon, the Gaels’ opponent in their first final in school history, Farmington High, made quick work of Shelton in a 3-0 victory at Willow Brook Park in New Britain.
The fourth-seeded Indians got a pair of first-half goals from junior Blake Rutenberg roughly two-and-a-half minutes apart, before Nate Hughes provided the capper with 17 seconds left in the contest, as Farmington cruised to its fifth state title since 2008 and 12th in school history.
The seventh-seeded Gaels, who played the final 31:11 a man down after standout senior Mikey Sciortino was sent off on a straight red card after fouling Farmington keeper Jordan Sicklick, were given a lifeline in the tournament after Danbury was ruled by the CIAC to have used an ineligible player in its 4-2 semifinal victory on Nov. 15.
“We looked at it as we were playing with house money a little bit now,” Shelton head coach Joe D’Auria. “We weren’t nervous at all.”
That CIAC ruling turned over the defeat to the Hatters, awarding Shelton an improbable 1-0 win and a spot alongside Farmington (18-2-1) in Saturday’s championship match.
“It was tough,” said D’Auria, who was in the midst of planning a vacation to the Bahamas set for Monday, while one of Shelton’s assistants was recalled from a trip in Vermont. “They were obviously switched off mentally. It wasn’t a physical thing, a physical practice is what it is. It was all mental at that point. So the mentality was, finding out yesterday, late morning, early afternoon, whatever it was, getting these guys ready. Then it’s like, now we have to switch gears from planning a weekend of nothing to this. It’s the opposite side of the spectrum.”
Shelton’s attack failed to break down an Indian side that had conceded just three goals all season — and none in the Class LL state tournament.
Rutenberg’s sliding finish on John DiTommaso’s carving through ball struck the post and deflected in at 24:44.
At 22:16, Rutenberg smashed a shot past Gael keeper Isaac Garcia to double the Farmington advantage. There the scoreline stayed, until Hughes netted a goal in the 79th minute.
Garcia and the 10-man Gaels went nearly 30 minutes without giving up another marker under a constant barrage, but Hughes, a sophomore, broke through late to finish off the victory.
“We just had long sequences that we controlled the game,” said Farmington head coach Steve Waters, one of only two soccer coaches in the state to win 500 career matches. “We controlled our attacking third and that’s the team that’s going to win, that controls the attacking third.”
Sicklick needed to make just one save to record Farmington’s 19th clean sheet of the season.
“Some could say, hey, if you had three more days of preparation, would the result be different?” I don’t think (so).”
Shelton finished its season 19-4-1 overall.