McMahon ties Norwalk
By STEVE GEOGHEGAN
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — It was the kind of tie that felt like a win to one team and a loss to the other.
The team that felt like it won, Brien McMahon, should probably feel that way because the Senators overcame 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to cross-town rival Norwalk to forge an exciting 2-2 draw with the Bears in FCIAC boys soccer action on Tuesday night in front of a packed house at Testa Field.
“Whenever you’re down and you come back to tie it, it’s better when you’re up and they come back to tie it,” said McMahon head coach Ben Ingalls, whose team is now 2-0-5. “It felt good. They were 6-0-1 coming in so to get a tie against a team that’s beaten six other teams is pretty good.”
Edinson Pena netted the game-tying goal off a penalty kick with 4:56 left in the contest. Ten minutes earlier, Norwalk’s Jose Canahui converted a PK of his own to give the Bears a 2-1 lead in the 65th minute.
“I’m definitely disappointed in how we played tonight,” said NHS head coach Chris Laughton, whose players had a team meeting on the field after the game was over. “I didn’t feel like we played to our capabilities, we played as individuals and not as a team. For a large portion of the game I though McMahon wanted it more than us and that’s disappointing but credit is due to McMahon. They played well.”
The Senators, who had lost the five previous meetings against the Bears, set the tone right off the bat in the first half with their attacking style while keeping Norwalk on the defensive, outside of a few odd rushes by the Bears (6-0-2 overall).
“We possessed pretty well (in the first half) outside of the last 10 minutes,” said Ingalls, who kept his starters in for most of the game. “There were parts of the second half we played well. It was an evenly-matched game.”
It was a scoreless first half of soccer before the teams opened things up in the second.
The Bears had a counter attack on the right wing with Steven Restrepo passing up to Miguel Argueta, who passed off to Harry Soriano. With goalie Brendan Quinlan-Huertas (three total saves) coming off his line, Soriano found Santi Mesa, who buried his shot bottom middle to give Norwalk a 1-0 lead at 51:45.
McMahon wouldn’t give in and put pressure on Norwalk keeper Tyler Dalton. The Senators’ persistence yielded the equalizer with Stathi Panagiotidis ripping off a shot that found its way into the top right corner of the net off an assist from Pena to forge a 1-1 tie at 56:23.
“It was off a set play and Edinson converted quick, passed it to me, I took a touch and nailed it home,” said the junior captain of his first goal of the season. “This is huge and we haven’t beaten them since 2008 so we’ll take a tie. We didn’t back down at all and this was our most focused game all year.”
A foul in the box on Norwalk’s Patrick Barrantes with 15 minutes and change on the clock resulted in a penalty kick for the Bears. Canahui beat a diving Quinlan-Huertas on a shot into the bottom left corner for the goal at 64:45.
“In this type of game, it can swing either way really quick,” Laughton said. “It’s a game of emotions and unfortunately we weren’t able to keep that lead.”
Outside of 11 minutes remaining, the Senators continued to fire off shots on the Norwalk goal yet were wide of the mark. On a free kick by Pena from 20 yards out, Dalton (eight total saves) came up with a nice save in the 73rd minute.
McMahon’s persistence on the offensive end paid off when a handball in the box was called with just under five minutes on the clock. Pena’s PK strike was deflected by Dalton in the bottom middle of the goal but the rebound trickled into the goal at 75:04.
“If I didn’t make it we would’ve lost so I had to make it,” said Pena, a transfer student from California who was playing in his first McMahon-Norwalk game and wanted to score a goal for his sister Ashley’s birthday. “I was going to go left but I saw the goalie go left so I tried to switch it and I ended up going middle. There was enough power on to get the goal.”
Ingalls said his team has a never-say-die attitude and it proved it can play with any team out there with its comeback against the Bears.
“An old McMahon team may have had their head down but this one kept fighting,” he said. “The atmosphere was alive and I think that kept them going. It was a good game.”