East Hampton’s David Castiblanco and Old Saybrook’s Felipe Dutra battle for the ball at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford. The Bellringers would lose the Class S title match to the Rams.
Playing on a slick surface and in a driving wind at Trinity Health Stadium in Hartford, the boys’ soccer team at East Hampton High School lost to Old Saybrook, 2-0, in the Class S championship game.
Old Saybrook’s Kevin DeCapua scored with an assist from Brayden Cody in the 17th minute and Cameron DeAngelo scored an insurance goal with 1:09 to play in regulation as the Rams won the Class S title for a fourth straight season.
For the entire 80 minute battle, players from both teams were slipping and sliding all over the weather-hardened artificial surface where the Hartford Athletics play professional soccer. The early start, combined with the frigid temperatures and moisture on the field made playing conditions less than ideal.
East Hampton head coach Rocco Christiana described the poor field conditions as “like playing on a sheet of ice”, but gave credit to the Shoreline Conference rivals.
“[Old Saybrook] won and congratulations to them, but we shouldn't be playing on fields like this for our final game. It’s absolutely ridiculous.” added Christiana.
East Hampton held a significant advantage in shots on goal, particularly in the first half when they had the wind at their backs.
Will Nafis, Colin Marshall, Oren Wilson, Brennan Johnson, and Ephraim Butson each had at least one shot on goal over the first 40 minutes, but struggled to find footing or accuracy due to the slippery surface.
Old Saybrook’s junior goalie London Sweeney, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, made spectacular save after spectacular save to shutout an East Hampton team that hadn’t been held scoreless in any of their previous 18 games this season.
In the 17th minute, Sweeney dove to save a shot from Wilson and a few minutes later jumped to deflect a shot from Marshall.
In the second half, Sweeney made another diving save of a David Castiblanco shot and ended contest by swatting away a free kick from Wilson in the closing minute of regulation.
East Hampton goalie Thomas Fenton was just as impressive, making several highlight reel saves.
Once the final whistle sounded, Christiana met a dejected Fenton on the field and comforted his junior goalkeeper.
“I just told him to keep his chin up, we’ve got one more year. We’ll come back next year and do what we need to do,” said Christiana. “He’s the best goalie that I’ve seen; it’s unfortunate what happened today.”
All told, the Bellringers won a total of 16 games this fall. They finished the regular season 11-1-1 and delivered Old Saybrook their only regular season loss on Oct. 28. East Hampton then won the a Shoreline Conference (SLC) championship with a victory over Morgan before ousting Thomaston, Canton, and Norte-Dame Fairfield in the state tourney to reach the program’s first state championship game since 2014.
Unfortunately for the Bellringers, the Rams of Old Saybrook would get their revenge in the most important game of the season.
The championship loss was the final high school game for a half dozen seniors, who Christiana said “carried the team all year.”
Johnson, Wilson, and Butson were Christiana’s captains in the field.
Christiana called Johnson “stellar” and praised Wilson for running the team from the midfield and Butson for his work on the backline.
Castiblanco, Josh Landon, and Adam Wecht will also be departing.
Johnson, who scored a team-high 23 goals, and Wilson were named All-Shoreline First Team. Castiblanco and Nafis earned All-Shoreline Second Team, while Butson was named Honorable Mention.
Fenton, who registered 11 shutouts this fall, was named the Shoreline Conference Goalie of the Year.
“We had a really successful season,” stated Christiana, who was named the Shoreline Coach of the Year. “We made it to the show and did the best we could with the conditions that we had, and we’re proud of what we did.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin