1966: A CRUSHING PENALTY KICK LOSS
• Pre-season begins typically: Coach Albie Loeffler is digging holes for the goal posts; then he is joined by Frank Henrick, Jim Kuhlmann and Jim Kaufman, all ready to help retain the county championship and recapture the elusive state crown. The team is young and unsettled – but not unsettled enough to prevent a 4-0 season-opening win against Danbury, in the Hatters’ first FCIAC match ever. Jeff Hand (2 goals), Jon Hand and Hugh McCann all score, in a game also notable for the introduction of a new Staples formation: 4 fullbacks, 2 halfbacks and 4 forwards. Loeffler plays the 2-0 win over Andrew Warde under protest, because their metal posts violate FCIAC rules.
• Brien McMahon ends Staples’ unbeaten, unscored-upon streak at 5 with a decisive 3-0 victory. The Hand brothers, along with juniors Flint Brayton and Mickey Mesa, and sophomore Chris Keneally, spark 4 more wins; the typically solid defense is keyed by Doug Lee, Chris Swan, Chip Young and Randy Ringer. The final game of the season, a non-league home affair against New Canaan, could give Loeffler his 100th career win at Staples (to go along with his 100-14-6 record at Ellsworth). However, despite 37 Wrecker shots, they tie the Rams (who take just 3) 0-0.
• Staples battles Brien McMahon for 3 scoreless periods, displaying excellent defense against the Phil Kydes-Gary Marmonaides scoring machine. But midway through the final period Laszlo Tailor – amazingly, he’s still around – takes a blast that keeper Randy Beverly blocks. Kydes pounces on the rebound, for his 23rd goal of the year. The Wreckers nearly convert a pair of corner kicks, but McMahon cops their third FCIAC title since 1961.
• The Wreckers, ranked fifth in the CIAC Class A tournament, face Hillhouse-New Haven, and Loeffler gets Staples win 100 by a 2-0 count. The second score comes when Mesa hooks an intended cross into the net, for the second time this season.
• Next up is Norwalk. In the second period Swan lofts a corner kick that Lee power-heads home. He is used for his height on corners all season long, but this is the first time he connects. Norwalk ties the match in the third period, also off a corner. It is a controversial goal: Some spectators feel the ball was batted out of Beverly’s hands. Four regulation periods, 2 full overtimes and 2 more sudden death periods end in a 1-1 deadlock.
• At twilight the teams go to penalty kicks. Beverly – a former forward – shoots first, and laces a drive into the lower left corner. Norwalk’s Vasil does the same. Jon Hand misses lower left; Blair Ciklen makes his. Bill Wheeler strikes his shot over the right side of the goal, but Beverly saves against Swain. Jeff Hand and his Norwalk counterpart, Yacher, both score low. One kicker remains for each team. Swan connects on his do-or-die shot – but Norwalk star Pasiokos slowly approaches, then drives a hard shot upper right. Beverly dives, gets his fingertips on the ball – and sees it spin up and in. Norwalk fans pour onto the field, and the second place team in the Eastern Division continues on to the Class A finals. They go all the way, beating Wethersfield for the state crown.
• Pete Gogolak, New York Giants’ soccer-style kicker, is the guest speaker at the awards dinner in the cafeteria.
• Other team members include Jim Carrow, Peter Cannon, Mark Cantor, Bruce Corrigan, Don DePierro, Randy Elliott, Dan Fremond, Tom Guidera, Rick Henning, Dave Jackson, Tom Kalasky, Si Lupton, Rocky Manchester, Hugh McCann, Rick McFarland, Rick Melrose, Dave Ottinger, Brian Porter, Steve Reynolds, Mike Rubel, Frazier Scott, Mark Stefanson, Tom Watts and Jeff Wilde.
• The junior varsity, led by keeper Bill Leary, fullback Paul Baumann and wing Chris Johnson, finish 7-1, outscoring their opponents 16-2.
• Former fullback John Marks, a Middlebury College junior, displays his talents on Channel 13 in a 4-1 win over Middlebury.
CAPTAIN: Chris Swan
COACH: Albie Loeffler
1967: THE FIRST UNSHARED STATE TITLE
• It might be the Summer of Love, and the world is rapidly changing, but some things remain the same. There is a pre-season jamboree (0-0 ties with Brien McMahon and Horace Greeley-Chappaqua, a 4-0 trouncing of Wethersfield), and Albie Loeffler sings the blues. He loses “6 good men” from ’66, and is “not too optimistic” about this fall.
• It takes just 7 minutes to score 3 times against Danbury – 1 from Jon Hand, 2 more from sophomore Steve Baumann, in his first game in a Wrecker uniform. Baumann and Hand work superbly together, as the Wreckers march on. Their third come-from-behind win of the year is a good one: 3 goals in 6 minutes to knock Brien McMahon from the unbeaten ranks. They cruise through the regular season unbeaten and untied (the second time they’ve done it), then prepare for the county championship against – who else? — McMahon.
• The Senators boast Phil Kydes, who has established a new state single-season scoring record of 24 goals in 10 games. (Baumann, unknown before the season, is second in the FCIAC with 16.) The first 4 quarters are scoreless. Then, in the first of 2 5-minute overtimes, Kydes connects on a 25-yard shot. McMahon captures their second straight 1-0 county final – and avenges their only loss of the season.
• The Wreckers, ranked first in what is now the CIAC Class L tournament, take a 1-0 lead against Wethersfield when Jim Carrow feeds Hand. Suddenly, 5 minutes from time, an own goal knots the score. But with just 2:10 remaining in regulation, Hand tallies again, off a corner kick from Flint Brayton.
• The quarterfinals against Manchester are even more exciting. Hand stakes Staples to an early lead, but the upstaters’ Conyers ties it from close in midway through period 3. Then – a mere 7 seconds from the end of the second overtime – Hand crosses to Carrow, whose gorgeous header creates pandemonium.
• The semifinals against Bristol Central marks the Wreckers’ third straight down-to-the-wire affair. Hand heads in Bill Wheeler’s corner kick, but for the third consecutive match they let a northern foe back into the chase. This time a penalty kick with 9 minutes to go ties the match. But 7 minutes later – with just 120 seconds to play – Hand once against knocks in his second tally of the day.
• The final is against – you must have guessed by now – Brien McMahon. Amazingly, the archrivals have never met in a state final. Both teams boast stellar 14-1 marks. Kydes now has 31 goals, but the Wreckers counter with Hand, Baumann, Brayton, Young et al. The game, played before a crowd of several hundred at Wright Tech in Stamford on a cold Veterans Day Saturday morning is – unbelievably – no contest. Just 1 minute into the game, Hand bangs a loose ball home. Halfway through the third quarter Brayton converts Baumann’s pass. Soon, Hand nails a penalty kick. Kydes is bottled up by the stubborn defense of Young, Paul Baumann and goalkeeper Bill Leary. A few months after the Summer of Love, the “modern era” of Staples soccer is born.
• The state championship game earns an 8-column, above-the-logo story in the Town Crier. Writer Alain Munkittrick notes: “Visions of European soccer came to mind late in the second half as Mr. Kydes, father of the Norwalk star, unhappy with the way things were going for his team and the officiating, charged out on the field and almost assaulted one of the officials. His Greek was superb, as has been his son’s play all year, but it didn’t help the Norwalkers’ cause any.”
• The guest speaker at the soccer/cross country dinner in the cafeteria is Yale University track and field coach Jim Terrill. The cost if $2.50 for junior varsity players, $4.50 for parents and friends.
• Other team members include Pete Atkins, Roger Bender, Pete Cannon, Chip Cohan, Dennis DePierro, Brian Doohan, Randy elliott, Tom Guidera, Rick McFarland, Mickey Mesa, Chris Pollack, Stu Ross, Clark Ruff, Larry Weinberg and Phil Woodruff.
• For the first time, the Staples yearbook notes the existence of an intermediate team, composed of juniors not on the varsity. They play a regular schedule against area teams. Members include John Brannon, Chuck Cortelyou, Mark DeFriest, Larry Ference, Ray Flanagan, John Green, Jeff Knofla, Larry Marcus, Dave Morgan, Greg Mulligan, Chris Murray, Dave Romano, Larry Russell, Bruce Schneider and Rich McMasters.
• Coleytown Junior High School coach Jack Finn had 35 boys on his roster. Every player played in every contest, except one.
COACH: Albie Loeffler
1968: A MUDDY STATE FINAL LOSS
• Coach Albie Loeffler points out that no Staples team has ever repeated as state champions. His gloom deepens when he learns that key defender Don DiPierro has moved out of town. In the annual pre-season jamboree the Wreckers score 5 goals against Brien McMahon, Wethersfield and Horace Greeley-Chappaqua. Then comes their first-ever out-of-state trip, to Patchogue, N.Y. for an 8-team night scrimmage. They beat Patchogue and East Islip 2-0 each, and tie a strong North Babylon side 1-1.
• Opening day is a 2-1 home squeaker over Greenwich, as Jon Hand nets the game-winner with less than 4 minutes to play. Steve Baumann ties the single-game scoring record with 4 goals – all in the first half – against Andrew Warde; he and Hand are working nicely together. Hand matches Baumann’s 4-goals-in-1-game record in a 5-0 shutout over Stamford (the highest-scoring team in the league). Brien McMahon plays for a tie, and gets it, 0-0. Still undefeated (8-0-1), the Wreckers weather a scare against Rippowam in the final regular season match. Hand’s fourth-quarter penalty kick salvages a 1-1 tie, and earns Staples’ eighth divisional title.
• Staples and McMahon meet for the eighth year in a row; for the second time this season the game ends 0-0. Senator goalkeeper Rick Salvato is the difference; several of his 21 saves are spectacular. The Westport keeper, by contrast, is fourth-string John Green: starter Bill Leary is out for the year (disciplinary action), while backups Jon Demeter and Rich McMasters are injured. Nonetheless, fill-in Green produces a shutout in the FCIAC championship match.
• The Wreckers, ranked third, break out of their scoring slump, hammering Glastonbury 4-0. Hand tallies all 4 goals, as the school’s single-game scoring record is tied for the third time this year.
• Staples then survives with a 2-0 overtime win against Danbury. Baumann lofts a long ball over the Hatter defense, and Hand beats the keeper; Tony Matisse notches the insurance goal.
• Fifth-ranked Newington is even peskier than Danbury. They get 2 early goals, and when leading scorer Hand breaks his wrist in the first period the future looks even more dismal. His injury is a huge emotional blow — and it also takes away Hand’s superb combination play with Baumann. But in the second period Baumann heads in Larry Russell’s cross; then Paul Baumann’s direct kick caroms off the crossbar, and Matisse heads it home. Newington regains the lead in the final quarter, but just before time Scott Williamson capitalizes on Steve Baumann’s direct kick – another crossbar shot — and the game is deadlocked 3-3. Two wide-open overtime periods produce no goals, so the teams move on to PKs.
• Loeffler stuns everyone by replacing keeper Demeter with halfback Williamson, a cat-like junior. He makes a diving save on Newington’s second kick, and when all five Wreckers (Sandy Wilder, Mark DeFriest, Chris Keneally, Paul and Steve Baumann) cash in on theirs, an explosive celebration ensues.
• The finals are against sixth-ranked Wethersfield, who ironically win their semifinals by penalty kicks, over McMahon. Snow pushes the finals back five days, to Saturday, Nov. 16 at West Hartford’s Sterling Field. The day is cold and dank; the field is muddy, and Staples’ hearts sink when Wethersfield capitalizes on a first-half break. Overcommitment by a defender leads to a 20-yard shot that hits the crossbar; Demeter cannot get his footing in the mud, and the ball falls into the net. The second half belongs to Staples, as Wethersfield packs the goalmouth with 7 players. But the goal stands and the Wreckers lose a tough, well-played game.
• The Town Crier is in decline; the new paper of record is the Westport News, and the soccer writer is defender John Green.
• Five Wreckers – Hand, Steve and Paul Baumann, Keneally and Ray Flanigan – make the All-FCIAC first team. Also on the squad is Joe Pierce of Rippowam, who later serves as a Staples assistant coach. At the annual soccer/cross country banquet in the cafeteria, Keneally and Hand share the Most Valuable Player award, while Flanigan is named Most Improved.
• Other team members include Ed Beach, John Brannan, Mark Brickley, C. Cook, Chuck Cortelyou, Larry Ference, Odeed Geismar, Dale Golden, Will Jansen, J. Knofla, Steve Levy, Larry McFaddin, Scott McNeill, C. Murray, Chris Nohr, J. Pressler, M. Quinn, B. Schneider, Don Sigovich, W. Sousa, Mike Stroetzel, Pete Van Scoyoc and M. Weichman. Russell goes on to become an assistant coach at Darien High School, while Brickley makes a name for himself in soccer sports marketing.
• Three former Wreckers play at Brown University, one of the top teams in the East: Chip Young, Peter Cannon and Flint Brayton (freshman team).
• Jeff Lea, in his first year as junior varsity coach, fields an undefeated team (with 44 players!).
CAPTAIN: Chris Keneally
COACH: Albie Loeffler
1969: THE REMARKABLE STREAK BEGINS
• In July men walk on the moon; in August the New York Mets are 13 games behind the Chicago Cubs, but on their way to their first pennant. At Staples, as many as 8 juniors may find their way into the starting lineup, having honed their skills (with returning senior co-captains Steve Baumann and Scott Williamson) in the Westport Recreation Commission “Watermelon Cup” summer league. One other uncertainty: Coach Albie Loeffler is on sabbatical leave, studying at the University of Bridgeport. Taking his place is Frank Henrick, chemistry teacher and former junior varsity coach.
• Henrick’s opening day features a new opponent (Nyack, N.Y.) but a familiar result: a 5-2 win. The Wreckers knock high-flying Greenwich to earth 2-0, outshooting them 31-1. McMahon, unscored-upon so far this year, scores the first 2 goals of the game – both in a 25-second span in the second quarter — on their hard, bumpy field. But Dale Hollingsworth feeds Tim Hunter with five minutes left in the first half; All-FCIAC keeper Rick Salvato pounds the post in rage after surrendering his first goal of the season. Three more follow: Walter Salwen assists on Steve McCoy’s header, Williamson knocks in his own rebound, and Hollingsworth applies the coup de grace in the 4-2 win.
• McMahon gains revenge with a 1-0 victory under the lights at Wright Tech in Stamford.
• It takes 12 minutes for Staples to score the first goal against Wilbur Cross-New Haven, but then all hell breaks loose. Baumann gets 4 (tying both the Staples single-game record, and the state tournament mark set previously by Jon Hand) en route to 7 first-half scores. The final is an astonishing 8-0.
• The quarterfinals are against another New Haven School, R.C. Lee. Baumann scores twice, Steve Levin once in a 3-1 win on Roger Ludlowe’s small, muddy field.
• That sets up a semifinal rematch against Wethersfield, the team that won last year’s final. The twice-postponed game is rugged. At the end of the 0-0 regulation Staples leads in shots, 28-18. The first 2 5-minute overtimes – the Wreckers’ first of the year – are also scoreless. The second, and final, 5-minute sudden death periods are nearly over when Levin lofts a free kick from midfield. Baumann leaps high, outjumps three defenders, twists, and heads the ball past the stunned keeper.
• The final, against Hartford Public at Quinnipiac College, is postponed several times, and anticlimactic. Baumann scores twice, off Williamson’s indirect kick and McCoy’s cross, as the Wreckers win 2-0.
• Over 200 people attend the first soccer/cross country banquet not held at Staples; this is at the San-Souci restaurant on the Post Road. Block “S” awards are presented to Baumann and Williamson.
• Eight Wreckers are named to the All-FCIAC first team: Baumann, Williamson, McCoy, Hunter, Hollingsworth, Levin, Wilder and Larry McFaddin. Three others receive honorable mention: Salwen, Olaf Neilsen and keeper Tracy McIntosh.
• Baumann, named Most Valuable Player in the state final game, goes on to play in the North American Soccer League with the Philadelphia Atoms, then coaches at the University of Pennsylvania. McNeill coaches at Lycoming College, while McFaddin does the same at the State University of New York-Morrisville, and later opens the Lake Placid Soccer Centre. Will Jansen becomes a captain at Worcester Junior College.
• Other team members include Ed Beach, Fred Cantor, Odeed Geismar, Bernie Harlow, J. McDonald, Scott McNeill, Trip Pearce, Alan Smolowe, Lynn Stoddard and Mike Stroetzel.
• The junior varsity loses only one game all year: to McMahon, on a penalty kick. The intermediates also finish 7-1.
• Interim coach Henrick returns 20 years later, in 1989, as girls varsity coach – and captures another state championship.
CO-CAPTAINS: Steve Baumann, Scott Williamson
COACH: Frank Henrick
1970: A PHENOMENAL DEFENSIVE MARK
• The nucleus of last year’s 17-1-0, state championship squad – including 7 All-FCIAC picks – returns. So does coach Albie Loeffler, from his sabbatical – until, in midsummer, he suffers a mild heart attack. Jeff Lea, who has coached all the present varsity players in their junior varsity days, steps into the breach. In the pre-season jamboree the Wreckers notch 1-0 victories over Brien McMahon, Rocky Hill and host Wethersfield.
• The ‘70s begin with an impressive 5-0 victory over New Canaan. When the Wreckers nearly score off the opening kickoff, a Ram defender asks, “Do we have to stay out here for the next 60 minutes?” The next game is no laughing matter. Traveling to New York’s Nyack High School, where lighted McCorlum Field features hazards like a drain pipe, track and baseball diamond, Staples drops a 2-1 heartbreaker. Randy Sterling sandwiches both goals around Steve McCoy’s header, and the Westporters’ 40-game regular-season unbeaten streak – stretching back to mid-1966 – ends.
• The Wreckers shake off the loss with a 4-0 rout of Rippowam. More shutouts follow – including a heart-stopped 1-0 win over Danbury, thanks to a clutch goal by junior Jim Baumann with 29 seconds remaining – but the Wreckers also lose co-captain Dale Hollingsworth for the season, with a broken leg. It is the worst of 7 injuries in a 2-day stretch.
• More shutouts follow, including 1-0 victories over stubborn Norwalk and vastly improved New Canaan. Baumann wins that one too, skimming Mark McGuire’s header into the far corner. Loeffler returns from his heart attack, and assumes co-coaching duties with Lea. The Brien McMahon match lacks the usual tension – for the first time ever, the Senators will not win their divisional title – and goals by Baumann and Tim Hunter secure the 2-0 win. Three more shutouts follow, and the Wreckers do the unthinkable: go the entire FCIAC season without surrendering a goal.
• McMahon misses its first title game, but crosstown rival Norwalk High is in. The Wreckers wallop the Bears 5-0. Hunter’s hat trick – the first-ever in a county championship, and his second of the week – is the big story. Fred Cantor and Glenn Lawrence net the other 2. It is only the second FCIAC title game decided by more than 1 goal, and Staples’ 5 tallies are their first in FCIAC post-season play since 1965.
• Despite their stellar record the Wreckers are ranked second in the field of 16, behind 11-0-2 Rockville. Staples opens with a 5-0 demolition of Hamden. Hunter scores his third hat trick in 4 games; McCoy and sophomore Jeff Williamson (brought up from the junior varsity) add solo strikes. Munro Magruder tends goal, due to a leg injury to regular keeper Tracy McIntosh – and stays there for the rest of the tournament.
• Staples meets Wethersfield for the fourth year in a row. Unsung halfback Trip Pearce holds explosive Manny Cavalieri in check. Though the first half is scoreless (Steve Levin’s goal is called back because the halftime gun sounds while the ball is in the air), Hunter and McGuire score after intermission. The defense of Olaf Neilsen, Charlie Russell and Neil Brickley continues to be impregnable.
• The semifinals is a 3-0 whipping of Windham. Hunter scores twice – giving him 18 for the season, and 12 in 6 games – while McCoy celebrates his 17th birthday with 1.
• The Wreckers, in the finals for the fourth straight year, meet third-seeded Conard-West Hartford. Like Staples, they have lost only once all season (2-0 to Wethersfield). The Chieftains boast the leading scorer (23) in the state, Doug King. The Wreckers get their 16th straight shutout, and 17th of the year, in front of a frigid, large crowd at Wesleyan University. Unfortunately, Conard also gets a shutout. Both teams share the state crown, following their 1-hour, 26-minute 0-0 draw. McCoy comes closest to scoring for Staples, while at the other end Russell clears a sure goal off the line. The Wreckers lead in shots, 19-8 (regulation time) and 8-4 (OT), but none translate into goals. Staples scarcely celebrates the co-championship, while the Chieftains go wild. But it is remarkable: The first Staples squad ever to win back-to-back titles, they outscore their opponents 54-2. And not once in 17 games has a Connecticut team scored on them.
• Hunter’s 18 goals leave him one shy of the school scoring record, set the year before by Steve Baumann.
• At the annual soccer/cross country awards night at Longshore Country Club, Levin is named Most Valuable Player, while Trip Pearce gets Most Improved. Levin and Olaf Neilsen are named to the All-New England team (the first year it exists). Seven players – Levin, Neilsen, McCoy, Hunter, McIntosh, Brickley and Hollingsworth (honorary) are chosen for the All-FCIAC first team, while Salwen and Pearce are 2nd team, and Russell, McGuire, Cantor and Baumann receive honorable mention. That makes a phenomenal 13 Wreckers as all-county picks. Just as incredibly, 11 members of the ’70 squad go on to captain their college teams.
• The intermediates, coached by business education teacher Al Silva, are 6-0-1, including victories over two varsity squads, Bullard-Havens Tech (4-0) and tournament-bound Wilton (2-0).
• The junior varsity finishes 9-0 under coach (and former Staples and Bowling Green) star Mike Golden, allowing only one goal all year. Dana Hollingsworth, Jeff Williamson, Dave Levin and Paul Hunter are all younger brothers of current or recent players.
• Former players starring on college teams include Chris Swan (co-captain at Union College), Scott Williamson (RPI), Paul Baumann (Wesleyan) and Steve Baumann (University of Pennsylvania freshmen).
CO-CAPTAINS: Dale Hollingsworth, Steve McCoy
COACHES: Jeff Lea, Albie Loeffler