By George Albano
The Norwalk High School boys soccer team wasn’t supposed to play the Class LL state championship game at New Canaan High School Friday morning. And the Bears weren’t supposed to play at 10:30 in the morning, either.
In fact, the game came very close to be being played at night somewhere farther upstate.
Just one man’s opinion, but I’m guessing if that was the case there would have been a few less people there — maybe even a lot less — than the 3,500 that showed up Friday morning.
But thanks to Jay Egan, the New Canaan High athletic director, the game was played in Norwalk’s as well as Fairfield Prep’s backyard.
The 10:30 start? Well, you have Jose Canahui, the Bears’ talented sophomore back, to thank for that. We’ll explain that one later.
But the wheels to move the game to nearby New Canaan were set in motion almost immediately after Norwalk’s 2-1 semifinal win over Stamford a week ago Friday at the same Dunning Field. Fairfield Prep had already beaten Greenwich in the first game of the Class LL semifinal doubleheader.
So once Norwalk won and the pairings were set for the final, NHS Athletic Director Wayne Mones approached Egan.
“I asked him if the CIAC says it’s okay, could we move the championship game to his place since it was close to both schools, and he said he would do it,” Mones explained minutes after Friday’s on-field postgame ceremonies. “The next thing I did was call Charlie Sharos (the CIAC soccer tournament director) and asked him if it was okay we move the game to New Canaan, which was more convenient for both teams and their fans. He said if New Canaan was willing to host it, he had no problem.
“So we were all set for 1 o’clock Friday at New Canaan. Everything was fine.”
Well, not exactly. That’s where Canahui, a native of Guatemala, enters the equation.
“After the game was set, Chris Laughton came into my office,” Mones said of the Bears’ head soccer coach “He said Jose Canahui had a 1 o’clock appointment on Friday with the immigration office in Port Chester. He’s in the process of gaining his citizenship and couldn’t miss that appointment. Chris said we can’t play at one o’clock.
“So I called Jay Egan back and asked him if we can play the game at his place at 6 o’clock instead of one o’clock, but he said he had another event that night. When I got a hold of Chris and told him we can’t play at 6, he said how about 10:30.
“It came down to playing either10:30 at New Canaan or going upstate.”
According to Mones, the CIAC had pre-designated three sites for its class state finals: Falcon Field in Meriden, Municipal Stadium in Waterbury, and Middletown High School. Mones said there was also a possibility they could play the Norwalk-Prep game to West Haven and probably start it at 6 p.m.
It turned out to be a moot point, however, because Egan said New Canaan High School would gladly host the title game at 10:30 Friday morning.
“Jay Egan really deserves all the credit,” Mones said. “Without him, we’re not playing Friday morning at New Canaan.”
Once Egan agreed, all that was left to do was get the CIAC’s blessings.
I called Charlie Sharos at the CIAC and he said playing it at 10:30 was fine with him,” Mones said. “The next thing I did was Google how far it was from New Canaan to Port Chester and it said about a half-hour, so I called Canahui’s mother and told her she would have enough time after the game to drive her son to Port Chester for his appointment.”
True, but just barely. Canahui was able to hang around after the game long enough to get his medal, but then had to quickly scoot out.
In fact, he couldn’t even stay for the official presentation of the state championship plaque. But before Canahui left, he ran over to where Egan was standing with the plaque and planted a kiss on it. Then he exited the field with his mother for the drive to Port Chester.
Thank goodness the game didn’t have to go into overtime.
But there’s no question moving the game to New Canaan put a few extra bucks into the CIAC’s coffers. New Canaan officials had originally planned to use just one side of the bleachers at Dunning Field, the home side during NCHS football games. Fans at first weren’t allowed to sit in the far-side bleachers behind the team benches. But once the near-side bleachers were filled to capacity, they had open the other side and they were nearly filled as well.
“Now my hope is the CIAC sees the revenue this game brought in because it was close to both schools and they continue to this in other sports,” Mones said. “We had over 3,500 people here.”
Many of whom might’ve missed watching the Norwalk High School soccer team win its first state championship in 46 years if it was played elsewhere.
© The Hour Newspaper