Published on November 11th, 2019 | by Staples Soccer0
State Tournament 1st Round Match Report: Staples vs. Wilbur Cross
Staples and Wilbur Cross have a history going back to 1885.
Sure, the Wreckers have only played the Governors in soccer 3 times, before tonight. All were in the state tournament, and all were wins. They came in 1965, 1969 and — most recently — 1990. That’s more than a decade before any current players were born.
But 95 years before that — in that year of 1885 — Wilbur Cross served as Staples High School’s 2nd principal. He was only 22 years old, but he was already a chemistry teacher. Sure, there were only 5 other teachers in the entire school. But he was Staples’ principal.
Wilbur Cross went on to a long career as a highly regarded Yale University English professor. In the 1930s — when he was in his 70s — he was elected governor of Connecticut. Today he has a parkway named after him. And a high school, in New Haven.
The Wreckers took to Bowen Field — adjacent not to Wilbur Cross, but to Hillhouse High School — as the #17 seed. Their regular season record (8-4-4) was almost identical to the #16 hosts (8-4-3). That one tie sent Staples up I-95, as the lower-ranked squad.
The Westporters knew little about their foes, other than they were very quick up top. Staples spent the first 10 minutes holding back a bit, figuring out what they were up against. Still, Surya Balaji earned a quick corner kick, and then Alan Fiore sent Sam Liles in on the keeper.
After 10 minutes, the blue-and-whites unleashed their press. Emerson Anvari and Lars Djuve pushed forward.
In the 18th minute, Anvari ripped a wicked shot. It was saved for a corner. Cross deflected that out, for another corner.
Patricio Perez Elorza took it. Anvari put it on target. It was saved, but Anvari was there to lift it up. Benny Feuer — the defender who comes forward on corners — knocked it in. It was his 4th goal in the last 5 matches.
Keeper Reed Caney was immediately forced into a save. In the 29th minute he made an even better one, tipping the ball over the top for a corner.
But Staples was dictating both the tempo and the style. Midfielders Fiore, Perez Elorza, Murilo Moreno and Sam Liles were winning balls, then spraying them wide. Defenders Balaji, Feuer, Carter Bassler and Brendan Lynch were playing a high line, keeping the Governors far from goal.
Less than 2 minutes before halftime though, the Wreckers were caught on a quick counter. Caney — the last man back — came out hard, beyond his box. He stuck out his hand to stop the shot — and was quickly shown a red card. The call was correct: A hand ball to stop a goal is an automatic card.
Staples was now a man down — and faced a free kick, just outside the box. Sebi Montoulieu came on as the new keeper. The Wreckers took one attacker off the field.
The free kick went over the top. At halftime, they talked about how to play the final 40 minutes, with only 10 players.
They would be air-tight on defense. Offensively, they would work the ball into the corners — not up the middle, where a counter could be deadly.
The strategy worked well. The Wreckers were smart tactically, strong technically, and tough physically. They did not allow Cross to develop a rhythm. And they continued to catch their opponents offside.
In the 56th minute, Perez Elorza dropped a free kick into the box. Lynch — another defender who roams forward on set pieces — rammed it home, for an important (and improbable) 2-0 lead.
But the Wreckers were not through. In the 70th minute Anvari banged a shot off the post. The Governors were still on their heels.
Five minutes later, Perez Elorza fed Evan Birns. He found George Smith. The junior’s shot deflected in off a defender, for an own goal — and an even more improbably 3-0 edge.
Haydn Siroka, Josh DeDomenico, Colin Corneck, Aidan Mermagen, Ryan Thomas and Jack Foster helped run out the clock. Down a man for half the match, the lower-seeded squad had prevailed.
“This match had it all,” said head coach Dan Woog. “There was drama, intensity, heart, guts and head. Our guys played very intelligently, and very tenaciously. It was an important win. It was great to advance. Now we need all that on Wednesday.”
They will indeed. The win gives the Wreckers a 2nd-round game at Glastonbury (Wednesday, 2 p.m.). The Tomahawks (14-1-1) are first-seeded. They’re gunning for their 4th straight “LL” (extra large schools) championship.
“Our motto is: We’ll play anyone, any time, anywhere,” Woog noted. “This is what we’ve been working for since August — since last year’s banquet, really. This is definitely the best time of the year.” FINAL SCORE: Staples 3, Wilbur Cross 0. SEASON RECORD: 10-5-4.
QUICK KICKS: In other LL games involving FCIAC teams, Trumbull (which won the FCIAC championship on Thursday, 1-0 over Fairfield Warde) beat Amity 3-0; Warde nipped Brien McMahon 2-1; Cheshire defeated Fairfield Ludlowe 4-1; Norwalk topped Harding 6-1; South Windsor downed Danbury 2-1 (penalty kicks, 3-2), Greenwich edged Conard 2-0, and In class L, Wilton shut out Branford 3-0….
Colin Corneck delivered the Veterans Day address today at Town Hall. To read the Naval ROTC scholarship winner’s inspiring speech, click here.