AVON – For Avon and Canton, the longest rivalry is now history.
The two schools, who began playing each other in boys soccer in 1969, played their final contest Tuesday at Fisher Meadows. As it has been for most of the past three decades, Avon came away as the victory with a 3-0 decision.
Avon will join the Central Connecticut Conference next fall. There are no opportunities for non-league contests in the CCC so the rivalry with Canton comes to an end after 80 games. It’s the longest rivalry in soccer for both schools.
For the first 14 years, the series was even. In the last 30 years, Canton has beaten Avon just five times and tied seven. Its final win over the Falcons came in 2012 with a 4-2 decision at Bowdoin Field.
Long-time Canton coach Bill Phelps will miss the rivalry and the challenge of playing the Falcons, who have been playing in the Class L tournament for the past seven years, earning trips to the championship game in 2011 and 2012.
“I’ll miss this,” he said. “I know 90 percent of the time, we’ll come in here and lose to Avon. But I also know that this will build me five wins. We’ll learn (from this). They’ll learn how to handle the pressure and how they can play (under pressure).
“The whole idea is to build up this team to compete in the Class S tournament,” Phelps said. “We could play any school and win 12-0 and that won’t do us much good. Playing (Avon) makes better and makes us stronger going into the (state) tournament.”
Avon (2-0-1, 1-0-1 NCCC) was poised Tuesday. They spread the field, were patient and attacked when they could. Matthew Fuge had two goals for Avon. His first came when he shot on Canton goalie Joshua Frigo (22 saves), who gave up the rebound. Fuge pounded it past him with 15:42 gone in the game for a 1-0 lead.
The Falcons made it 2-0 when Jack Keenan took a pass from teammate Stephen Dorney and shot on Frigo, who gave up another rebound. Keenan drilled the ball into the net for a 2-0 lead with 10:53 left in the first half.
The two goals took some steam out of the Canton attack. The Warriors (1-2, 1-2 NCCC) put just five shots on goal.
“Avon has good foot skills and we don’t have that level of play,” Phelps said. “We’re getting there.”
The Falcons added a third goal with 3:10 left in the game. Midfielder Riley Strassner chipped in a nice ball into the box to Fuge, who scored his second goal. Strassner, who had three goals in a 6-0 rout of Bolton on opening day, finished with two assists.
Injuries disrupted the preseason preparations and second-year coach Dave Zlatin said the Falcons are finding out what works best for them in their opening games. Midfielder Kevin Brown is still out after getting hurt in the first preseason contest. But Keenan, Max Gorack and Reed Stapleton are getting into the swing of things.
“We’re growing. We’re a work in progress,” Zlatin said. “We had a lot of injuries to our midfield and we’re putting it back together. I do like my lineup when we are all healthy.”
Strassner, who scored 10 goals a year ago as a sophomore, is a huge asset at forward and a playmaker. Defender Stephen Dorney helps anchor the Falcon defense. Goalie Dan Magrini made five stops to earn the save.
The Falcons are very aware that this is their last run through the NCCC and that their opponents are excited to get one last opportunity to beat them. “We want to make a good impression (in our final NCCC games). We want to win the league championship,” Zlatin said. One of the big challenges ahead of Avon is a pair of games with Suffield on Oct. 10 at Fisher Meadows and in the season finale on Oct. 29 in Suffield. The Wildcats have won three straight Class M and league titles. Avon’s most recent league championship came in 2010.
In Canton, Phelps likes his defense led by Riley Hollis and Nico Tuccillo at stopper back and Casey Witkos and John Commerford as the wing defenders.
It allows Phelps to move Colin Madigan to midfield. In the off-season, Madigan (8 goals last fall) plays with a premier level club team. He joins junior playmaker Riley Hoffman (4 goals last fall) in midfield. Frigo returns in goal for the Warriors. Up front, there is senior forward Nate Hanson, who had three goals in last week’s 4-2 decision over Enfield, which will join the CCC in a year or two when they merge with Fermi High.
NOTES: Avon leads the series between the two schools, 53-18-9. … The last Canton win was in 2012, a 4-2 decision at Bowdoin Field. It was Canton’s first win over Avon since 2003. … Avon has won eight of the last nine games in the series. … Canton has upcoming contest Friday against Bolton on the turf in Canton followed by games against the Public Safety Academy in Enfield and the Metropolitan Learning Center from Bloomfield. Both are Capitol Regional Education Council (CREC) schools fielding varsity soccer teams for the first time.
Avon 3, Canton 0
Canton (1-2) 0 0 — 0
Avon (2-0-1) 2 1 — 3
Goals: Matthew Fuge 2, Jack Keenan; Assists: Riley Strassner 2, Stephen Dorney; Saves: Dan Magrini (A) 5, Joshua Frigo (C) 22; Shots: Avon 27-5, Corner kicks: Avon, 4-0