For the third time in four years, the Somers boys’ soccer team can call itself “champion.”
The No. 4 Spartans defeated No. 14 Litchfield 7-1 on Saturday to claim the Class S state championship.
“Somers coach John Pantuosco knew his team would score, but that didn’t make the game any less nerve-wracking.
“For the first time in a while, we were the clear favorites. I was a little bit more nervous about that, knowing that we’re expected to win,” he said. “We shared the wealth today and it really worked out.”
Somers had been to three previous finals – 2004, 2008, and 2010 – and had returned a champion all three times. The Spartans were determined to continue the undefeated streak.
Midway through the first half, a Connor O’Grady direct kick hit the crossbar and came to Nick Elia who put it in. Only 20 seconds later, Donny Whittle got another ball by Litchfield’s Zach Crane.
With a little over 12 minutes remaining in the half, Litchfield (11-7-2) got a goal by Ryan Pickett.
Kyle Laires put Somers back up two goals with a rocket from way out. The Spartans would hold onto this 3-1 lead at the half.
“They battled, Litchfield battled and battled and battled,” Pantuosco said. “We were up 2-0 and I’ve said this a million times to my team, that’s the hardest lead to defend. And they scored and made it very interesting. Then we got another one before halftime and then the second half was all Somers.”
That’s an accurate assessment of the second half, as everything clicked in the half for Somers (17-3).
Goal number four was scored when Lorenzo Rolocut took a shot, Crane saved it, and Jake Alvaro buried the deflection. Only 2:30 later, Whittle escaped a couple defenders and gave Somers a 5-1 lead.
With just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, Joe Pantuosco fed a perfect pass to Whittle who once again found the back of the net.
“He’s a scoring machine,” John Pantuosco said. “I’m really surprised they weren’t marking him better, but maybe they didn’t think he’s as good as he is. The thing about Don, he’s just as humble as possible.”
With 1:33 left in the game, O’Grady buried a ball from way out to finish the scoring for Somers.
O’Grady was injured early in the game and actually came out for a time. He still played a significant role in the win.
“Connor plays better when he’s hurt,” Pantuosco said. “It’s almost like when you’re watching the Rocky films and they say, “He’s getting beat – no, no, he’s winning.” That’s how Connor is. He’s winning when he’s hurt and he’s digging in and he’s got something inside that’s just absolutely incredible. He comes from a big family and I know he’s been battling with his brothers his whole life. He’s a winner.”
Alvaro was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“My friend Donny Whittle got that last year and I was just so jealous,” Alvaro said with a laugh. “It was great to get this award. It’s such a great feeling.”
This is Alvaro’s third championship in his four years at Somers.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” he said. “We work hard every day to try to reach it. Our coaches definitely emphasize hard work and at the beginning of the year, he gives us a speech about how we’re on top and we have a target on our back. It’s the best way to end my senior year. It’s such a good feeling.”
Pantuosco agrees with that decision.
“In my opinion, he’s the MVP of the state,” he said. “He has 62 wins – in 80 games – three state championships, one conference championship, and he’s an absolute stud. He is the best player on the field.”
Soccer isn’t the only thing Alvaro is good at.
“I’m a very emotional person and I get all the butterflies in my stomach and everything – probably the whole day of the game,” Pantuosco said. “Then when I finally arrive at the field and I see Jake and he puts out his big hand to shake, and gives me a hug, the butterflies go away. He really has a calming affect on me. As great a soccer player as he is, he’s a better person. He’s an incredible kid.”
Alvaro and nine other seniors will be departing and will be sorely missed.
“I’m going to miss all of these seniors tremendously,” Pantuosco said. “It’s been a great, big happy family for the last four years.”
For Pantuosco, it really is about family. His brother, Mike, is an assistant coach, as is his son, John. Then there’s Joe, who is on the team.
“That’s the best you can have,” he said. “Today was special. Today was very, very special to be around.”
He’s not the only one who found it special.
The boys' soccer team successfully defended its Class S title with a 7-1 victory over Litchfield on Saturday.
This is the third title in four years for the Spartans.
Donny Whittle led the attack with three goals for Somers. Nick Elia, Kyle Laires, Jake Alvaro, and Connor O'Grady also had goals for the Spartans (17-3).
Alvaro was named the game Most Valuable Player.
O'Grady, Luke Alvaro, Lorenzo Rolocut, and Joe Pantuosco had assists.
Somers led 3-1 at the half.
Litchfield (11-7-2) got its only goal from Ryan Pickett.
Check Ellington-Somers Patch later tonight for a full story and photo gallery.