By GERRY deSIMAS, Jr.
Connecticut Sports Online
CANTON, Oct. 1, 2002 — Seldom do five games tell a story on how a season will end – especially in high school soccer.
Still, the 2002 campaign has already been a noteworthy adventure for the Canton High boys soccer team. The Warriors could lose its remaining 11 games and still go home with some unique achievements.
For Canton, it has been five games and five victories. The only other start in team history that was better was a 6-0 start in 1977.
The Warriors beat Suffield for the first time in seven years, 6-2. They beat Avon, 3-2 for its first win over the Falcons since 1991, snapping a 13-game losing streak against AHS. Canton also beat Granby on an overtime goal by sweeper Seth Mastrocola, 2-1.
It’s first time that Canton has beaten Granby, Avon and Suffield in the same season. This could be the year that Canton challenges for its first league championship since 1978 when it won the Northwest Conference Division II title.
“Last year this team went to the Class S quarterfinals. They were in contention for the league title,” long-time Canton coach Bill Phelps said. “But it was new to them. They didn’t know what to expect. Now, they know what they have to do.”
Thirteen players graduated from last year’s team that went 9-7 in the regular season and 10-8 after being eliminated by Wheeler, 2-1 in the quarterfinals. But only two of those 13 players were regular players.
Only two seniors start for the 2002 team, which has plenty of soccer experience under its belt. Eight players have experience playing premier level soccer – a step above town travel teams. Players from different towns generally tryout for premier teams.
“This is a team with a lot of soccer knowledge,” Phelps said. “They play 24 hours, 7 days a week all year round and it makes a huge difference. And the other kids that don’t are forced to play at a higher level of play, which they are capable of doing.”
Juniors Karl Schilling, Luke Flaherty, Chris Ziegler, Jordan Church, Scott Delehanty, Emory McClinton and the injured Owen Kravitz (achilles tendon) are premier level players along with sophomores Brian Phelps and David Spatcher.
“By playing soccer, they learn it and by playing at a higher level, they are getting better,” Phelps said.
Schilling, a junior midfielder, had nine goals after five games with three multiple-goal efforts, including two goals against Suffield and three against East Granby. Church has an assist or the second assist on 12 of the team’s first 20 goals. Ten different players have already scored this season for the Warriors.
Mastrocola came out of his sweeper position with a long run to score the game-winning goal against Granby. “Most teams don’t want a back coming through but we have some very talented defenders,” Phelps said. “They when to make those plays.” It was Mastrocola’s first varsity goal.
Flaherty plays stopper along with backs Dan Strumbas and Spatcher. At midfield, there is Schilling, Kyle Donaldson, Mark Peterson and Jake Ohanesian. Up front, Church, Delahanty, Brian Phelps and Ben Lentz play forward. Rowan Sheldon and Matt Cirish split time in goal.
Sheldon had 10 saves in the Sept. 17 win over Avon, which hadn’t lost in 21 games (18-0-3) to the Warriors. Twice, Avon tied the game only to see Canton pull ahead.
“I’ve been pleased to see how they play,” Phelps said. “They know how to win, which is nice. We answered twice against Avon. It’s nice to see that they have that ability.”
Against Windsor Locks, Canton played a man down for 74 of the game’s 90 minutes after an early ejection. Yet, the Warriors still prevailed with a 5-1 victory.
While this is a nice start, there is still plenty of soccer left to be played through the waning days of October and early afternoons of November.
“The program is strong and it is growing,” Phelps said. The junior varsity team is 4-1 and there are 50 kids in the program.
CORNER KICKS: Canton hosts its annual night game at Bowdoin Field on Saturday night Oct.19 with a contest against East Granby beginning at 8 p.m. The girls varsity team plays East Granby at 6 p.m. … The boys are still looking for their first victory in a night game at home. They are 0-3 at Bowdoin Field and 0-5 in its last five night contests. The last win at night came in 1998 at Stafford, 2-0. … The team’s three captains are Flaherty, Donaldson and Mastrocola. … Since the NCCC’s big expansion in 1984 when Canton,
Avon and E.O. Smith joined the league, only two league titles have been won by a Class S team. Granby won the NCCC in 2001 and 1985. Avon won five titles, Ellington won one and Suffield shared one title. E.O. Smith-Storrs, a Class LL program, won 10 titles from 1986-98 before they left the league for the CCC East.
This story was first published at the Connecticut Sports Online website.