MILFORD - After  Zach Polletta scored to draw Watertown High School to within one goal in their CIAC Class ‘L’ semifinal match against Fitch High School at Jonathan Law High School on November 18, there was a palpable buzz among the always-supportive, always-vocal WHS Nation in attendance. Would their heroes come all the way back again, as they had against Holy Cross in the NVL championship match and against Brookfield just one week earlier in the tournament’s second round?

The conventional wisdom was that they would; that their scrappy style would eventually wear down the Falcons and they would find a way to at least tie the match at 2-2 and find a way in either overtime or a penalty kick shootout, earning their way to the state final.

Oh, they tried, but with only 5:40 left to do it, Watertown ran into a cool, collected Fitch defense, which held the fort in front of goalkeeper Nathan Virtue to hang onto a 2-1 victory forged by a pair of first half goals.      

With the victory, Fitch (the alma mater of former New York Mets pitcher Matt “The Dark Knight” Harvey, who was not spotted in the crowd) not only advanced to the title game against Wethersfield High School at Dillon Stadium in Hartford on November 21 (a match they lost, 4-1); in the process, they denied WHS its’ first state game berth in 65 years.

In the end, it was startling just how far coach Vitto Caligiuri’s team had come; after a 3-2 loss to Woodland in the September 11 opener, a state title game berth seemed like a far-away dream.

That dream damn near came true, as the locals went on a 13-game winning tear during which blowouts were the rule rather than the exception; only Holy Cross stood in Watertown’s way of extending their winning streak into the post-season, but the Crusaders scored a 4-1 win the finale on October 27.

Cross also was the last obstacle facing WHS in the NVL tournament, but after coming back from two goals down and in fact leading 3-2 with two minutes left, the locals were on the short end of a 4-3 score in a penalty kick shootout.  

After a first round bye, second-seeded Watertown had all it could handle against Brookfield in the second, twice coming back from two-goal deficits before taking command in overtime, 6-4.

After surviving that close call, it was easy to get a feeling that no deficit was too large; that this team could overtime anything, that any team with a lead had better keep tacking on to their advantage, because once the black-and-orange shook loose, you would be in serious trouble.

So, when Polletta converted in a maze of bodies off another mayhem-inducing throw-in by Liam Farrell, the feeling was FHS had better steel itself, which it did, killing the last 90 seconds in the corner to the left of the Watertown goal.

The 54-degree kickoff temperature assured that weather would not be a factor, as the No. 14 Falcons, much as Brookfield did, controlled possession throughout much of the first 40 minutes, and it paid off.

Just six minutes in, Fitch broke through on a goal by senior Sebastian Duffy, who converted a pass and while sliding, drilled the ball past lunging WHS goalkeeper Lucas Fenn (four saves).

Watertown has two great opportunities on superb corner kicks by Justin Calabrese, but he was denied both times by Virtue.

With nine minutes remaining in the half, Eri Spaho headed a throw-in by Farrell over the crossbar; two minutes later, Fitch added onto their lead when James Miner’s header off a throw-in by Micah Diggs resulted in what turned out to the difference-maker.

Down 2-0, there was no need to panic, and after the halftime break, Watertown came out with renewed vigor and pushed in deeper into FHS territory, keeping Virtue on his toes while his teammates and Fenn kept Fitch at bay until Polletta struck.

In the end, it was the Falcons coming out on top, but a proud WHS team could hold their heads high, knowing that this program, which keeps producing bumper crops of talent, will be back next fall, and many falls after that.

         1  2  T

FHS  2  0  2

WHS 0  1  1 

SCORING SUMMARY

1st Half

F - Duffy 6:00

F - Miner 33:10

2nd Half

W - Polletta 34:10

FINALES: Playing in their final matches for WHS were seniors Lucas Fenn, Betim Kllobocishta, Ty Phelan, Justin Calabrese, Arben Nuredini, Wesley Kulikauskas, Ryan Butwell, Liam Farrell, and Edis Arsin.

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