In a tightly contested struggle throughout, the Hartford High School boys' soccer team recently traveled to Springfield to take on the defending Division II state champion Cosmos, coming away with a hard-fought, double-overtime tie.
Playing without their arguably their best player in senior-captain Rory Skehan, the Hurricanes had to look for other means of scoring, though goals and even good scoring chances were hard to come by in this match. Both teams struggled early to generate any offense, with most of the play in the middle of the field.
As the first half wore on, however, Hartford managed to get a little offense going as up-and-coming freshman Noah Wilson generated a couple shots on Springfield keeper Jordan Pfenning, who was up to the task. In the final 10 minutes of the half the Cosmos started making some noise of their own, with junior Colin Brady knocking a header just over the crossbar off a corner kick.
Arguably the best scoring opportunity of the half came when Hartford freshman Jed Sass rifled a low shot from 15 feet out with just under three minutes left, forcing Pfenning to dive to his right to knock the shot away and end a frustrating first half offensively for both teams.
In the second half, both teams came out more aggressive and started connecting on passes better, as Brady got off another early shot for the Cosmos, before the Hurricanes came back with three consecutive corner kicks, but the pressure producing no shots on goal.
However, the Hurricanes finally broke through at the 24-minute mark when Wilson on a beautiful play, dribbled past three defenders along the baseline to the left of the goal, and calmly pushed a shot inside the far post to give Hartford the lead.
To the Cosmos credit they kept working hard and tied the match up with just under six minutes left in regulation, when Brady pounced on a loose ball in front off a corner kick and snuck it under the crossbar to force the extra session.
In overtime, Hartford had a couple quick chances to end it off two corner kicks, but one produced no shot and the other was headed over the crossbar by Wilson. The only Springfield shot of the first OT went well wide of the left post.
In the second overtime Brady almost ended it for the Cosmos as he hustled to catch up to a bouncing ball towards the goal, but Hartford keeper Jon Alvin came out of the net and stuffed the play before Brady could get a shot off. On another play, Springfield junior Tom Kendall got a shot off from the left of the box, but it sailed over the crossbar.
Both teams had one more chance to bag the winner off corner kicks, but in each case the headers went well wide of the net, ending the match in a 1-1 tie.
"I think both teams have similar styles and skill sets," Springfield coach Paul Kendall said after the match. "It was a defensive struggle most of the way, but I think we played better and better as the match went along and we certainly had a couple chances to end it in overtime.
"Noah Wilson just made a great play to score their goal, but I was happy that we were able to bounce back and get the tie. It is the fifth time this season we have come back to tie or win a match, which shows good determination and heart not to give up."
With the tie, (at press time) Hartford moved to 5-4-2 on t he season while Springfield moved to 7-1-2 on the season, while Hartford moves to 5-4-2.