Bears squeeze past McMahon
The Senators had their scoring opportunities, but Norwalk got the game’s only goal and then protected the lead with tight defense
By TOM EVANS
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — Defender Connor Prescott just kicked the ball as far as he could.
Forward Manny Arteaga turned in time to let the ball glance off his head and into the back of the net for the only goal of the game.
That simple formula allowed the Norwalk boys soccer team to break a scoreless tie and claim a 1-0 victory over Brien McMahon in a physical, hardfought game between the city rivals Tuesday night in front of a raucous crowd on Sam Testa Field.
“It feels good to come back and redeem ourselves from last year,” Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton said in reference to McMahon scoring three second- half goals and winning 4-2 in 2006.
“I’ve been harping on them all season to play 80 minutes. This was the first game where, for the entire game, everybody did what they were supposed to do. (The goal) felt great.”
In a game where bodies were routinely being knocked to the turf, the goal — with 13:21 remaining in the second half — came on a play where everyone stayed on their feet.
Prescott launched a direct kick from about midfield. McMahon goalkeeper Taso Petridis (four saves) misjudged his leap from the crease, and Arteaga flicked at the ball with his head to put the Bears ahead 1-0.
“I saw the kick in the air, and I got up and headed it while I was still in the air,” Arteaga said. “I looked around and I saw (Petridis) on the floor. Winning this game means everything. We just wanted to beat them.”
Prescott said some halftime advice from Laughton helped set up that scoring play.
“In the first half we kept hitting (Petridis) with long kicks, and at halftime coach told us to challenge the keeper,” Prescott said. “I just kicked the ball as far as I can — I have the biggest boot on the team, and that’s what the coaches tell me to do — and Manny got it. We deserved it. We definitely deserved to win the game.”
Norwalk may have deserved to win, but McMahon had more potential offensive threats, at least up until the Bears scored and packed in the defense around the south goal.
Alex Hurd played the first half in goal for Norwalk and stopped five shots. Michael Jimenez made seven saves in his 40 minutes in net.
“We had better scoring chances and better opportunities to set up scoring plays,” McMahon head coach Chris Bacco said. “If we played the way we set out to play, we might have taken advantage of some of those opportunities. We’ve had problems in the final third of the field this season, and finishing again eluded us. The kids played with too much emotion and not enough thought.”
The Norwalk defense — which played without Colin Prescott, who tore three ligaments in his right foot and will have a magnetic-resonanceimaging exam Thursday — had something to do with the inconsistent Senator offense.
Connor Prescott, Robert Geitz, Tyler Collins and Ezra Kuz-Dworzak did a solid job of preventing sustained possessions, and then kicked or headed away balls on set plays.
Prescott headed away a Sanchez cross in the first half, and Arteaga booted away a corner kick by midfielder Luis Mandujano with eight minutes remaining.
A McMahon corner kick 12 minutes into the game produced a shot that sailed over the crossbar. About 10 minutes later, Mandujano sent a crossing ball that was just beyond the reach of forward Trinidad Sanchez.
Hurd grabbed a dangerous entry pass right in front of midfielder Kenny Coppola late in the first half, and midfielder Manny Rivers whistled a shot inches wide of the right post in the final minute of the half.
McMahon’s frustrations on offense continued in the second half. A Mandujano free kick was turned aside by a group defensive effort five minutes into the period, and Coppola’s perfect cross from deep in the right corner sailed harmlessly through the box and out the far sideline.
The teams traded possessions before the decisive scoring sequence.
“A ball played in the air always has the opportunity of being put in the net,” Bacco said. “I see this game as a step back. In the New Canaan (1-1 tie) and Westhill (1-0 loss) games we were much more organized. We have to stay focused, something we need to keep working on.”
For Arteaga, this game simply means the team is putting it all together.
“We just have to keep playing like we did today,” Arteaga said. “If we keep playing like we did today, we can beat any team.”
Prescott agreed with Laughton’s assessment that this Norwalk team finally put together a total game.
“This was the first game where we played a full 80 minutes,” Prescott said. “That’s partly because we were playing McMahon. This team is a family. I hate to be a senior and go out with a loss to McMahon.We are getting better every day.”
Bacco believes the Bears are in good hands with Laughton.
“I was pleased to hear that Chris took the job at Norwalk,” Bacco said. “I think the kids are responding to him. They’re playing the game the right way, the way Chris played the game. He’s doing a great job.”
© 2007 The Hour Newspaper
NHS Soccer Takes 1-0 Win Over McMahon
By Teresa Errico
Norwalk Citizen-News Newspaper
Article Launched:10/05/2007 01:54:40 PM EDT
Coach Chris Laughton couldn’t put into words what it felt like to watch his Norwalk High School boys soccer team score the game’s sole goal Tuesday night at home during the annual cross-town soccer match with McMahon.
“I can’t even describe it,” the first-year coach and former Norwalk High School soccer player said after the game, grinning from ear to ear. “All the hard work these guys have put in, all the bonding they’ve done this just makes it all worth it.”
The goal gave Norwalk the 1-0 win over McMahon to redeem itself after last year’s 4-2 loss resulting from three unanswered goals in the second half. Norwalk’s record now stands at 3-3-1 in the Fairfield Interscholastic Athletic Conference and McMahon’s is at 3-3-2.
“It means everything to me that we won,” Bears senior Manny Arteaga said. “It is my senior year and last year they beat us and I just wanted to redeem myself.”
Goal accomplished for Arteaga. And goal scored. Arteaga put the ball into the back of the net after senior teammate Connor Prescott set him up with 13 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the second half.
Prescott set the play in motion, booting the ball towards the goal off an indirect penalty kick. The ball soared perfectly on goal and as McMahon senior goalkeeper Taso Petridis (four saves) failed to get a firm hand on it, Arteaga positioned himself directly in front of the net to head the ball in for the score.
The Bears and the fans, a full crowd divided into rowdy Norwalk spectators on the right and energetic McMahon students on the left, watched the play unfold and the Norwalk fans leapt to their feet in wild cheers.
“I just kicked the ball as far as I could,” Prescott said. Laughton had given him the responsibility of taking penalty kicks as the player with the most powerful foot and Prescott said, “I just took on that responsibility.”
The goal came as a result of a change in game plan, Prescott said. When all his first half kicks were hitting Petridis directly, Prescott said he sought advice from Laughton at halftime to make the plays work. “At halftime he told us to challenge the keeper and Manny did and it worked in our favor,” Prescott said. “All the hard work paid off and we deserved this win.”
With the comparison in saves with Petridis’ four versus Norwalk’s sophomore Alex Hurd, six in the first half, and junior Michael Jiminez, six in the second half, it was easy to see that McMahon was charging the goal harder. “We had better scoring chances,” McMahon coach Chris Bacco said. But all it takes is one goal to sink into the net to gain the win. “When a ball is played in the air and deep into the box like that, anything can happen,” he said.
Bacco sees Tuesday’s game as a step back for the Senators. In previous games “we stayed more focused,” he admitted. “Tonight there was just too much emotion and not enough thought.”
For the Bears, the game was a step forward as for the first time all season, the team played a full 80 minutes, Prescott and Laughton said.
“I’ve been harping all year to play focused soccer and play disciplined. And entering tonight’s game, everybody did,” the coach said proudly.
“This is a turning point for us,” Laughton continued. “Everybody played a huge part and from here things are only looking up. We now have the confidence going into any game knowing we can win.”
And if the team keeps playing like it did on Tuesday, Arteaga believes the Bears can beat any team.
“Every day we’re getting so much better and overcoming adversity,” Prescott said.
Both teams break until Monday when McMahon returns home to take on Danbury and Norwalk travels to St. Joseph’s to challenge the Cadets. Both matches will be played at 4 p.m.
© 2007 Norwalk Citizen-News