East Hampton boys’ soccer head coach Rocco Christiana talks with all-conference sophomore William Nafis in overtime during the Bellringers victory over Canton on Nov. 11.
East Hampton boys’ soccer is headed to the program’s first state championship in eight years after beating Canton on penalty kicks in the Class S quarterfinals and then ousting Notre Dame-Fairfield in the semifinals on Tuesday.
In the victory over Canton on Nov. 11, the No. 3-ranked Bellringers outlasted the visiting Warriors 3-2 (PKs: 5-3) on a rain-soaked field at East Hampton High School.
After 100 minutes of soccer, including a pair of 10 minute overtime periods, East Hampton was flawless on penalty kicks, netting five-of-five shots.
All-conference goalie Thomas Fenton cemented the victory, making a crucial save on Canton’s third penalty kick attempt.
“I was just taking it one shot at a time. One save can win the whole thing,” said Fenton. “I was nervous, not going to lie. That is one of a few shootouts that I have been in, but I felt comfortable.”
“He is the best goalie in the league,” head coach Rocco Christiana said of Fenton, who was named the Shoreline Conference Goalie of the Year. “He is #1 and you see why.”
Leading up to the game Fenton had a conversation with his teammates, saying, “I told the boys in our last practice, if we go into PKs I’ll do the best to have your back. But if they didn’t make all five I wouldn’t be standing here right now.”
Brennan Johnson, Oren Wilson, William Nafis, Ephraim Butson each made their kicks, setting the stage for Jakub Remiszewski to boot home the game-ender.
Christiana said that Remiszewski approached him before the extra session asking to kick fifth.
“I’m not going to question someone with that type of confidence,” stated Christiana.
Johnson and Colin Marshall scored goals in regulation as the two unevenly-matched teams battled with each other and the weather conditions, featuring a steady drizzle of rain for the entire game.
Shots were scarce in the two overtime sessions, forcing the teams to settle it with the penalty kicks.
Christiana said that his team was prepared for the shootout, adding, "We worked on it all season long. I was extremely confident and had no worries.”
The win was the Bellringers final home game and marked the six straight victory at the friendly confines of EHHS.
“It’s always good to be at home. We have the best fans in the state; the best support system,” added Christiana, who credited Canton for giving them his team all they could handle. “I have a great relationship with the Canton coaches. They are a class act and a great team.”
In the semifinal victory, the Bellringers blanked Notre Dame-Fairfield 2-0 at Pomperaug High School, advancing the program to its first state championship since 2014 when they finished as the co-champions following a 0-0 tie with Somers in the Class S title match.
After winning 11 regular season games this fall, the Bellringers swept through the SLC tournament before defeating Morgan 3-1 on Nov. 4 to win the conference crown.
Johnson and Wilson were named All-Shoreline first-team, Nafis and David Castiblanco were named to the second-team, and Butson was an honorable mention selection.
Christiana, who was named the Shoreline Conference Coach of the Year, credited assistant coach Michele Landry for the team’s defense front which has been the hallmark this season, shutting out 11 opponents and not allowing more than two goals in any game.
Prior to leaving the field during the quarterfinals win over Canton, Christiana exclaimed, “We’re not done yet.”
After this weekend, Christiana’s team will be done. They will either be crowned state champions or finish as the runner-up to Old Saybrook, their opponent in the Class S title tilt at the Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford.
Visit ciacsports.com for a date and time of the championship game.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin