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Goal with 7.8 seconds left allows Indians to share division title with Avon

Farmington's Luis Encinas tries to push Avon's Reed Stapleton away from the ball in Thursday's 2-1 loss to Farmington.

Farmington’s Luis Encinas tries to push Avon’s Reed Stapleton away from the ball in Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Farmington.

FARMINGTON, Oct. 29 – The Avon High boys soccer team came out of Thursday night’s Central Connecticut Conference game with Farmington with a piece of a championship and a harsh soccer lesson.

Farmington’s Evan Hughes used his left foot to fire a shot past Avon goalie Danny Magrini with 7.8 seconds left to lift the Indians to a 2-1 win at Tunxis Meade Park. Both teams went 9-1 in the CCC Central White division, each winning on their respective home fields.

But because the Falcons gave up just three goals in 10 CCC Central White Division contests instead of four for Farmington, Avon (11-5, 9-1 CCC Central White) advances to the eight-team CCC tournament Saturday as the divisional champion.

Farmington's Evan Hughes (20) had several scoring opportunities in Thurday's 2-1 win over Avon.

Farmington’s Evan Hughes (20) had several scoring opportunities in Thurday’s 2-1 win over Avon.

Avon, the No. 5 seed, will play at No. 4 Tolland on Saturday. The semifinals are Monday with the championship game on Wednesday. Farmington (12-2-2, 9-1) didn’t finish among the top eight teams in the league.

The Falcons needed a win, a tie or a one-goal loss to clinch the top spot in the division and the berth in the league championship tournament. Jack Keegan tied the game with 28:34 left with a tremendous individual play, getting through a crowd of four players. And it looked like Avon would hold off the Indians to tie and claim the division title.

But Farmington increased the pressure – especially in the final five minutes of the contest.

“In the last five minutes, there were more interested in winning than we were since a tie was very helpful to us and it reflected in our attitude,” Avon coach Dave Zlatin said.

Farmington coach Steve Waters stated simply, “We were playing for character. That is what we did.” It was a few weeks that Avon handed Farmington its first loss of the season with a 2-0 truimph.

Hughes had some tremendous shots on goal throughout the game and his game-winner was magical.

“He’s a terrific player,” Zlatin said. “He’s a handful. He was dangerous all night and he finds a way to get to the ball.”

Hughes got some help for the game-winner. Tied at 1-1, the Indians got a corner kick with less than 30 seconds remaining. An Avon defender headed the ball to the turf where Farmington’s Ian Thomas got a foot on it and sent a shot into a crowd of Avon defenders.

The ball deflected high into the air off the player and to his right – away from the net. Farmington’s Jared Lomongino chased down the ball near the corner of the penalty area box. Avon’s Brendan Brown tried to stay with him but slipped. Lomongino turned and fired a cross across the penalty area.

Hughes, near the center of the penalty area, lifted up his left leg and with his foot in the air, he redirected to the ball past Magrini for the game-winner. The pass just slipped past Keenan before it got to Hughes.

“Lomo got to it, figured something out and crossed it with his left foot,” Waters said. “And Evan was there saying I’m making sure on this one and put it in with a volley.”

It was the second last-second loss for the Falcons this season. Conard beat Avon, 3-2, in September by scoring with five seconds remaining. “We have to learn to close out games,” Zlatin said.

Farmington caught a break to take a 1-0 lead with 14:28 remaining the first half. Magrini came out to play the ball and collided with Farmington’s Mike Mello. But not before Mello chipped a ball to his left toward the corner of the net. Blake Rutenberg headed the ball into the empty net for the lead.

Avon tied the game on a wonderful play from Keenan, who has scored 11 goals in the last 12 games. He has a team-high 15 goals and has sparked the Falcon offense. He scored with 28:34 remaining in the game.

Avon's Kobe Barnes puts pressure on Farmington's Justin Isner in Thursday night's CCC victory in Farmington.

Avon’s Kobe Barnes puts pressure on Farmington’s Justin Isner in Thursday night’s CCC victory in Farmington.

Magrini made several nice stops on Farmington advances throughout the game. Defender Jack St. Onge cleared some nice Farmington shots away in the first half and prevented some Indian forwards from even getting a shot away.

Farmington dominated the first half, outshooting the Falcons, 14-4 and with a 5-1 advantage in corner kicks.

“In the first half, the defense wasn’t good. The offense wasn’t good and we recognized that. In the second half we were much better,” Zlatin said.

 

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years.

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