SEYMOUR — The road to the NVL boys soccer title was an adventurous trek to say the least, but the ending was sensational.
The No. 1 Greyhounds laid claim to their fifth straight league championship — their seventh in the ten-year history of the tournament — on the strength of a 3-1, overtime victory over No. 2 Watertown Nov. 2 at Seymour High School.
The game was much closer than the final score indicates.
Through 69 minutes the game was tied at 0-0, much like the scoreless draw the two teams battled through the week before. For those counting, that was 129 minutes and 50 seconds of scoreless soccer before Eric Zoldy lined up for a direct kick with 11:10 to play in the championship game.
Zoldy sent the direct kick just under the cross bar to give the Indians the 1-0 lead and send the Watertown sideline into a frenzy. But there was still a lot of soccer left to be played.
As the minutes ticked off the clock, Naugatuck kept the pressure on Watertown. The Greyhounds finally broke through with 3:45 left to play when Vinny Knupp sent in a ball toward goal on a restart. The initial shot was batted away by Watertown keeper Hayden Beauty (15 saves), but Tom Martins was there to send it to the back of the net to tie the game.
“I was praying I wasn’t offside,” Martins said. “I looked behind and I saw the flag wasn’t up.”
Pandemonium again along the sidelines, but this time it was the Greyhounds celebrating.
“When we scored that goal to tie it up I felt very good about our chances,” Naugatuck head coach Ryan Kinne said. “I thought we responded well when Watertown went ahead. Zoldy hit a nice ball to give them the lead, but I knew how hard we worked this season and I had a lot of confidence that we would be successful.”
Things only got better in overtime.
After a scoreless first overtime period it looked like this one would be decided by penalty kicks. That all went out the window just 37 seconds into the second overtime period when goal keeper Aren Seeger was called on to take a free kick after a penalty against Watertown.
Seeger, who made four saves on the night, lined the ball up about 60 yards from the goal and booted a towering drive that sailed over Beauty’s head into the upper 90 of the net to give Naugatuck a 2-1 lead — a kick that will go down in Naugatuck soccer history.
The stunned crowd erupted in cheers.
“I just tried to kick it as far as I could,” said Seeger, who was named the tournament MVP. “When I saw it had the distance I was hoping the keeper would miss and he did. I can’t even put into words what this feels like. To be playing in our fifth straight championship and to win it on a goal that I scored, not something that I thought would happen.”
The Indians tried to collect themselves, but any notion of a comeback was dashed when Knupp stole the ball 30 yards out and drilled a goal past a diving Beauty with 7 minutes to play.